10 Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

by | Apr 2, 2024

As we age, we may become more susceptible to fraudsters who make a living preying on retirees. This can be especially true for widows and widowers who are making decisions alone and may be particularly trusting of friendly strangers. To protect ourselves and those we love, it’s essential to be aware of the most common scams Americans fall for.

Lottery Scam

You get an unsolicited phone call or email saying you’ve won a large prize. All you need to do is send money for shipping, taxes, or some ancillary fee. If you send the money, the fictional prize never arrives.

Grandchild Scam

Your grandchild calls to confess her troubles. Or so you think. It’s not uncommon for someone posing as your grandchild to call and, preying on your compassion, claim to be in a crisis and need money urgently. She may also beg you not to call her parents (which would give the scam away). We know of one person who was telephoned, and the scammers were so good that they spoofed (faked) the telephone number of the grandchild so that her face and phone number came up on the Caller ID of the grandparent. Fortunately, no money changed hands.

Charity Scam

You donate to one charity and end up being on every charity list. They sell your name, phone number, and email to other nonprofit and commercial organizations. These could include companies with similar names to charities you support—but they exist solely to scam donations.

Computer Scam

Someone calls pretending to be from a major company, such as Microsoft, saying he can see that your computer has a virus. He offers to help you get rid of it by asking you to log into a website that lets him control your computer—then steals your ID and information.

Timeshare Scam

If you own a timeshare, you may get a call from someone claiming they’re authorized to sell it for you, for a fee. After paying, however, you never hear from them again.

Homeowner Scam

A man comes to your door and offers to clean your gutters or trim your trees, which sounds like a good idea until he asks for prepayment and never completes the job.

Medical Scam

You get an unsolicited call about a discounted price for medical equipment (i.e., heart monitor, wheelchair, or bathtub bench.) You’re asked for a deposit and your personal information or Medicare number to send the equipment, which never arrives.

Foreclosure Scam

You’re approached by a “professional” who claims your home is under threat of foreclosure and offers to pay off your mortgage or taxes if you sign over the deed to the property. With your deed, the fraudster can then refinance the mortgage for the total value of your home and take the money. Remember that even if you sign a deed over to someone, you are still liable for your mortgage obligations.

Caregiver and Sweetheart Scam

These predators claim to care deeply for you or your well-being, but after winning your trust, they gain access to your accounts to steal money or identity information.

Title company Scam

Before purchasing or closing on a new property, a scammer intercepts an email from your real estate agent or title company. You then receive fraudulent payment instructions to complete the transaction. Red flags include last-minute changes to instructions, a change in tone or word choice from prior emails, a new sender address, and multiple payment requests.

These scams are common and widespread. But speaking with trusted loved ones or your financial professional before making decisions or acting can help you avoid these traps.

  • Additionally, keep in mind these tips for staying safe:
  • Don’t pay for things you don’t remember ordering.
  • Don’t give your personal information to unknown third parties.
  • Work with financial institutions that use fraud protection to safeguard your credit card and banking information.
  • Don’t click links in the body of suspicious emails, especially if they claim to come from your bank, credit card company, real estate agent, or title company. Instead, log in to the company’s official website or call them directly to verify.
  • Don’t let strangers into your house. Instead, ask for a business card and say your spouse, kids, or lawyer will be in touch.
  • Be wary of caregivers and suitors, especially if you notice signs of substance abuse or other red flags.
  • Limit your purchases and donations by check, which may list your home address or other key data.

Ellenore Baker, CFP® Private Wealth Advisor

Ellenore holds an MBA in Finance and International Business from New York University. She started her career as a floor trader for Goldman Sachs, and received her CFP from Southern Methodist University. Outside of work, Ellenore is heavily involved in Women’s organizations such as the Texas Women’s Foundation.

Related Posts

New Faces at CFM!

New Faces at CFM!

Please join us in welcoming our newest team members.   Anna Wood is a highly experienced Office Administrator who joined Carter Financial Management in May. With over 25 years in private equity and commercial real estate, she brings a rich background and outstanding...

A Visit from Our Scholarship Winners

A Visit from Our Scholarship Winners

We were delighted when a few of our former scholarship winners came by CFM to meet us. These young men and women are phenomenal individuals, and the potential our scholarship selection committees saw in each of them is becoming realized.   Jorge Rodriguez Santana...

The Power of Direct Indexing: A Strategic Approach to Investment

The Power of Direct Indexing: A Strategic Approach to Investment

In the dynamic world of investing, where innovation constantly reshapes the landscape, one strategy that has gained attention is “direct indexing.” Direct indexing is an investment approach that allows investors to customize portfolios of individual stocks, mirroring...