Scams have always existed, but technology has given scammers even more sophisticated ways to gain access to your financial or personal information. Scammers will employ all forms of communication such as phone calls, texts, and emails, and they may pretend to be agencies like the IRS, the Social Security Administration or your local police department, and threaten you if you don’t make a payment or give them your personal information. They may even call pretending to be a relative in trouble needing money immediately. If you educate yourself about the most common scams and how to avoid them, however, you can stay one step ahead of the scammers and avoid becoming a victim.

Phone scam calls

A common tactic used by phone scammers is to call pretending to be an agency like the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the police, or Amazon and using scare tactics to intimidate you or lead you to believe that you have done something wrong. Scammers pretending to be police officers may say that they will show up at your workplace or home if you don’t pay them what they are asking for or give them information. Imposters calling and claiming to be from the IRS or Social Security Administration may lead you to believe you are in some sort of trouble and must make an immediate payment or give them sensitive personal information to avoid facing repercussions.

Receiving a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration or the police can instantly trigger a fear reaction in the person receiving the call, and that is exactly what the scammers are counting on. They are hoping you will be so afraid that you will do what they ask without thinking it through. But there are phone scam warning signs that should instantly make you stop and question whether this call is legitimate. Agencies like the IRS will not make threatening phone calls demanding instant payment. If you do owe a tax debt, the IRS will send an initial notice through the mail, not by contacting you by phone. The Social Security Administration will also communicate first by mail, in most cases, if there is any kind of issue, and they will not threaten you or demand immediate payment.

One of the common scams targeting seniors specifically is known as the grandparent scam. This scam plays on the emotions of grandparents who would do anything to help their grandchildren. Imposters pretending to be a grandchild will call seniors claiming to be in some sort of trouble. They may say they have been in an accident and are in the hospital, or they may say they have been robbed or are in jail and need money immediately. The imposters may beg you not to tell their parents because they are afraid of getting in trouble. They may also gain information about your child from their social media accounts so they can give you details that lead you to believe they really are your grandchild. 

Protecting Yourself From Phone Scams

When you understand the red flags to look out for, and how phone scammers operate, you can take steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim. The best precaution you can take is to avoid the calls altogether by only answering calls from known phone numbers and then blocking the spam phone calls. If it is a legitimate business calling on an important matter, they will leave a voicemail. If you do pick up a call, be skeptical and don’t share personal information if you can’t verify the caller. Legitimate agencies or companies will not call, email or text asking for personal and financial information or make you feel threatened. If you do feel like you are being threatened or pressured to divulge sensitive information, hang up and call the official phone number for the legitimate agency to report the phone call.

To avoid becoming a victim to the grandparent scam, coordinate with your family members to choose a family password. Make sure this password is not something that a scammer could easily guess from looking at social media accounts, such as the name of a pet. If someone calls claiming to be a grandchild or other family member in trouble, you can ask them for the family password to verify their identity. If they can’t produce this information, you will have the peace of mind that the person is not actually a loved one in need. 

Most Common Signs of Text and Email Phishing Scams

A phishing scam is a type of online scam that attempts to gather your personal and financial information by sending you an email or text that looks like it comes from a company known to you such as Amazon, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service or AOL. Scammers are becoming ever more sophisticated, and it can be difficult at times to determine whether communications you are receiving by phone, email or text are legitimate. In email communications, scammers will often use company logos that look authentic, and texting scammers may have some bit of personal information that can make them seem legitimate. If you know the most common signs of phishing scams, you will have a better chance of recognizing them and you will be able to prevent scammers from taking advantage of you. 

A common tactic used in a scammer’s text or email is including a link to track a package, or a link to pay money you supposedly owe and need to pay immediately. Clicking on the link could allow malware, which is software designed to cause damage or gain unauthorized access to information, to be downloaded onto your mobile device or computer, or can lead you to a fake billing page where they can collect your credit card or login information.

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

If you receive a suspicious looking text or email with a link that looks like it is from a company you do business with, don’t click on the link without verifying that it is actually from the company. If you receive a text from Amazon, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service, for example, but you haven’t ordered anything recently, that should be a red flag. You can avoid text and email scams by going to the official company website to find the contact number so you can verify with them whether the text or email is legitimate, and report them if they are not. You should also block spam emails and block spam numbers so you do not receive any future communications.

Additional Steps to Protect Yourself From Scams

In addition to blocking spam or telemarketer calls, texts, or emails, verifying the legitimacy of senders, avoiding clicking on suspicious links or divulging sensitive information, there are additional steps you can take to protect yourself. 

Do Your Research

  • Research companies before purchasing or making a donation to make sure they are legitimate

Avoid Payment Scams by Watching Out For Suspicious Forms of Payment

  • Avoid doing business with someone who asks you to pay using a wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency. Legitimate companies will not ask you to pay using these methods.

Talk to Someone You Trust

  • When in doubt, stop and talk to someone you trust like a family member, friend, or professional. 

Report Fraud

  • You can report any fraud targeting seniors to the FTC online or at 877-382-4357. You might also want to notify your state’s attorney general and consumer protection office.

Additional Resources

Cogir Family of Communities Educates Residents on the Most Common Scams to Avoid 

The Cogir Family of Communities cultivates an environment where you can thrive and be engaged in enriching and meaningful activities that help you lead your best life. We care deeply about your wellbeing, and we strive to provide all of the resources available  to keep you informed about topics or issues that could have an impact on your safety, health or finances.

An example of this was a presentation that was recently held at Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, Maryland, educating residents about the most common scams and how to avoid them. Residents learned the red flags to look out for regarding phone scams, email and text scams, and how to protect their personal and financial information. Having this knowledge gives residents the information and power to avoid becoming a victim.

While it can feel overwhelming to try to remember all of the different kinds of scams to be aware of, when considering how to protect yourself from scams, the key takeaway is to remain vigilant regarding your personal information. Always exercise caution before clicking on a link or engaging with someone in any way when they are asking for money, even if they appear to be someone you know. Verify that they are who they say they are, and don’t let them pressure you or scare you into acting quickly. 

Unfortunately, scammers will always exist, but you don’t have to become a victim to their scams. If you understand how they operate, and you know the red flags to look out for, you can protect your personal information and finances.

Five senior living communities in the Washington, DC metropolitan area – Tribute at One Loudoun in Ashburn, VA; Tribute at The Glen in Woodbridge, VA; Tribute at Black Hill in Germantown, MD; Tribute at Melford in Bowie, MD; and Cadence Olney in Olney, MD –  are part of the Cogir Family of communities. What sets Cogir apart is the company’s devoted approach to creating healthy, vibrant communities that offer residents exceptional independent living, assisted living and memory care lifestyle options. Cogir Senior Living develops, owns and/or operates 60 lifestyle communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit