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How to Recognize a Telephone Scam

There is a wide range of strategies to get personal information from seniors over the phone, and new ones come up all the time. So how can your elderly loved one tell apart a telemarketing scam from a regular telemarketing call? There a few telltale signs they should know about, compiled below, along with some tips on recognizing and avoiding telephone scams.


  • Inform your family member that any call that starts off with “You’ve won…” or has the words “free”, “low risk”, “high reward” or “act now” is most likely a scam.
  • If they ask for any personal information, such as bank account info, a credit card number, the last 4 digits of your social security number, or anything personal at all, tell your senior to hang up and call the institution targeted such as their bank, the SSA, etc.
  • A good general rule for your elderly loved one is to not pay for anything over the phone from an unfamiliar company. Tell them that if the caller wants any money, hang up.
  • Your senior must be skeptical of everyone who calls, especially if their call is unexpected. They must not believe everyone is who they say they are; tell your loved one that someone may say they’re a law enforcement official and need personal information, but a police officer would realistically only contact them in person.
  • Insist your family member obtains any salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, address and business license number, and verify all that, before taking the caller’s word for anything.
  • Talk to your loved one about the importance of checking out unfamiliar companies with their local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, or the National Fraud Information Center.
  • Insist they must not be afraid to interrupt the salesperson or hang up on them. Tell them to use phrases like: “I never buy anything over the phone” or “I’m on the National Do Not Call Registry, do not call this number again” or to just tell them “I’m not interested” and hang up.
  • If your loved one has ever fallen victim to a scam before, they must be vary wary of callers offering to help them recover their losses, and that they should hang up right away if the caller mentions anything about a paid fee in advance.
  • Get Caller ID on your senior’s telephone so they can see what numbers are calling and so they can take precautions or report phone numbers.
  • Inform your senior that if they get a call from a supposed family member in need saying they are in jail or their car broke down and are asking your senior to wire money to them, that they must first check with other family members to see if it’s true before believing the story; often times it is actually a scammer posing as a family member and trying to steal money.

If you think someone is trying to scam you or an elderly loved one, call your local law enforcement and report it immediately.

If you would like to learn more about how our caregivers can help your loved one prevent senior fraud, give us a call at (805) 934-0600 or email us via our contact form.

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