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Protecting older adults from fraud & scams

Tech support & other scams on the rise.

Older adults are increasingly the target of financial scams. According to the National Council on Aging, older adults lose as much as $36.5 billion a year to financial abuse and scams. Many scams go unreported often because the victim feels embarrassed, fears retaliation from scammers, or does not know how to report the crime.

Older adults may attract con artists because they tend to be unfamiliar with cybersecurity, often have a sizeable nest egg, and may be more willing to talk on the phone and answer the door to strangers – but anyone can be a victim.

Help protect yourself and your loved ones from these common scams:

Scam #1: Tech support

In this scenario, a scammer posing as a technical support representative calls to claim there is an issue with your computer – for example, that your software is outdated or that you need to confirm your identity – and asks for remote access to resolve the issue. Once you provide this access, the scammer may request payment for technical assistance, install malicious software, change settings to leave your computer vulnerable, and/or steal your financial information.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Do update all security patches and antivirus software regularly.
  • Don’t purchase any software or services from an unsolicited call or email.
  • Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you. If you receive a call about a computer problem, hang up. If you suspect something is wrong with your computer or believe the scammer obtained access to it, bring it to a reputable company for a malware check.
  • Don’t provide your personal or financial information, including your online banking password, to anyone claiming to be technical support.

Learn about other cyber threats and scams.

Scam #2: Refund scams

Scammers impersonate well-known companies by phone, email, and text to send out fake shipping or purchase notices. They advise you to call the number provided or click a link in order to dispute the charge. They may also call you and say that you are entitled to a refund or discount on a service that is being discontinued. These are all ploys to get access to your computer so they can "help you get the refund." 

Once they have access to your computer, the scammer may ask you to complete an online “refund form” or sign on to your online banking account. They’ll manipulate what you see on your screen or transfer money between your accounts to convince you that you received a refund for much more than promised (e.g., $20,000 instead of $200). Then, they make a plea for you to “send the extra money back” so they don't lose their job. They may ask you to wire money to a foreign country, purchase gift cards, or mail cash.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Don't trust phone numbers provided to you in an email, voicemail, or pop-up ad. If you want to call the company, use the customer service number on their official website. Note: Scammers sometimes purchase ads and create fake customer service websites that will show up on search results.
  • If you are asked to send money from a recent deposit or overpayment, discuss the situation with a banker or trusted friend or family member. Be truthful about the situation, since many scammers direct you to lie about why you're sending the money.
  • Review your account activity to spot signs of fraud, such as an online transfer from your own savings, credit card, or home equity line of credit. If you're unsure of the descriptions used for a transaction, ask a banker to help since many scammers will add a memo to make the transfer appear legitimate.
  • Don't allow anyone to have control of your computer or remotely "watch" what you're doing on your screen.

Scam #3: Lottery/sweepstakes scam

In this scenario, scammers may contact you by phone, email, or letter claiming you have won a lottery or sweepstakes and requiring you to pay a fee to receive the prize to avoid taxes or additional fees. Sometimes, you receive a counterfeit check in the mail, which the "lottery officials" say you can use to pay the required taxes or fees. These con artists may even threaten to report you to the IRS or police if you do not make the requested payment.

To help avoid this scam:

  • Do be suspicious of anyone claiming you have won a lottery or sweepstakes that you have never heard of or entered.
  • Do be leery of any lottery or sweepstakes requiring an upfront fee to collect winnings.
  • Don’t send money to anyone you do not know or cannot verify as being a legitimate company.
  • Don’t provide personal or financial information if you did not initiate the contact.
  • Don't deposit a check that comes with a letter stating that you've won a lottery or sweepstakes. It is likely counterfeit.

Share these useful tips with your loved ones and remind them to monitor their bank accounts and report any suspicious or unauthorized charges immediately.

For more tips to help protect yourself from fraud and scams, visit the Wells Fargo Security Center or view our Protecting those you love guide (PDF).

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