Grandma Jo said, “I knew I was getting scammed after the first $20,000, but I kept giving them money because they were the only people who called me.”
Society blames it on getting older, dementia, or natural cognitive decline. But truthfully, Grandma is lonely, and scammers are experts at relationships. One phone call can change everything.
Some widely known scams are fake grandchildren, ransomware, and romance scams.
At the Elder Financial Safety Center at The Senior Source, we see many older adults falling victim to what we call the companionship scam.
The AARP Foundation reports one in three adults aged 45 and older are lonely. They often live alone and do not have a lot of friends, contact with family, or meaningful relationships, but they have access and resources.
Loneliness is when there is limited social connection. Isolation is someone without access to such normal basic needs as a car or money for the bus and fresh foods.
Many times, a scammer meets a nice person in need at the grocery store. The scammer takes time to listen to their sad story. After a few more “chance” encounters, they con them out of money or move into their home.
The effects of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health are as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to the Surgeon General of the United States in the May 2023 report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.”
Grandma did not know the scammer marked her, followed to learn her patterns, watched for visitors, and skimmed through her mail to know her interests.
When our world moved online, it created more distance between the lonely and isolated. Scammers are always lurking, and if we want to prevent Grandma from losing $150,000 like Jo eventually did, a simple act, like calling them to make sure they know they are not alone, is the first step.
Julie M. Krawczyk, the director of the Elder Financial Safety Center at The Senior Source, a go-to resource for older adults, urges those needing an unbiased, supportive resource to call for help with financial questions to call at 214-823-5700 or email [email protected].