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No swindle on the seniors

No swindle on the seniors

DA Cy Vance.
DA Cy Vance.

Hands off the grandparents.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., ARC XVI Fort Washington and Riverstone Senior Centers have teamed up in a new campaign to keep seniors safe from scams.

Together, they are raising awareness about common financial scams targeting seniors, and providing tips to help prevent victimization.

“In recent months, we’ve seen an increase in the number of financial scams targeting the senior population,” said Vance. “It’s incredibly important that children, grandchildren, and anyone with seniors in their lives talk to them about common scams and how to prevent becoming a victim.”

“Seniors are among the most vulnerable to scams – they remember the trust of a handshake,” noted said Laura Ruiz, Riverstone Senior Center Program Director. “As schemes get more sophisticated via phone and via internet, seniors need to know both the strengths of new technology and the risks.”

Community members are urged to keep the following information at hand and to report any suspicious activity.


Some are duped into believing they’ve won the lottery.
Some are duped into believing they’ve won the lottery.

Top Scams Targeting Seniors:

  • Lottery – Victims are informed that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes of some kind, and that they will need to make a payment to unlock their prize. Often, scammers will ask for credit card information or payment by phone.


  • Grandparent– Scammers will place a call to a senior. When the victim answers, they will say something along the lines of: “Hi, Grandma. Do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses a grandchild of theirs, the scammer has established a fake identity, which they use to extort money. In a similar version of this scam, perpetrators tell the victim that their grandchild has been arrested abroad and they are unable to reach their parents to pay the bail. This scam requires a perpetrator with some inside knowledge of the victim’s family.


  • IRS– A caller claims to be collecting a past-due debt, often from a utility company, the IRS, or as settlement for a car accident. Victims are threatened with the loss of utilities, possible deportation, or prosecution if they don’t make immediate payment, sometimes from a pre-paid card.


  • Evil Spirits– Perpetrators target older victims, often Chinese, convincing them that they are cursed by evil spirits and offering to cure them by “cleansing” their valuable possessions, including cash and jewelry. The scammers then make off with the cash and jewelry.


  • Family Members/Aides– According to the National Council on Aging, 90% of all reported crimes against seniors are committed by their own family members. Similarly, a high number of thefts, abuse and scams are committed by aides hired to assist and care for seniors.


  • Charity– This scam involves phone solicitors who claim to represent a charitable organization, such as a police foundation or group supporting natural disaster victims, by accepting “donations” under false pretenses.


  • Healthcare/Medicare– Perpetrators pose as an insurance representative offering non-legitimate services for seniors at makeshift mobile clinics if they provide their personal information. The scammers then use the information to submit a bill for false services and pocket the money.


  • Deception Burglary– Scammers working in pairs impersonate utility or contracted workers conducting a safety check of water, electricity, or gas. Once inside the victim’s home, one perpetrator distracts the victim while the other steals property.


  • Investment– From high-level Ponzi schemes to emails from far-away princes that need help unlocking their fortune, investment scams are incredibly varied and prominent in senior communities. They are generally perpetrated via phone, mail, and email.


  • Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage– Perpetrators involved in this predatory lending scam offer money or a free house somewhere else in exchange for the title of a victim’s property. Often these perpetrators don’t own the home they offer or fail to pay, leaving victims of the scam homeless.


Better to limit the information provided on the phone.
Better to limit the information provided on the phone.

Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones:

  • Never give out financial or personal information to anyone who contacts you unsolicited.
  • Be wary of callers who demand immediate payment for any reason.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion or more information.
  • Request to verify the employment of any worker who asks to enter your home.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who claims you have won a contest or lottery that you don’t remember entering.
  • Never wire money, provide debit, credit card, or bank account numbers to someone you do not know.
  • Legitimate utility companies and government agencies will never demand payment in the form of a pre-paid card.
  • Family members should be vigilant when hiring caregivers for seniors. They should monitor bank accounts and credit card bills for unusual spending and be on the lookout for any signs of physical abuse.


Anyone who believes that he or she may be or know a victim of elder abuse should call the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Elder Abuse Hotline at 212.335.9007.


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