Help for Elderly People Targeted by Fraud

Studies by the AARP show that most elderly fraud victims don’t make the connection between illegal telemarketing and criminal activity. They don’t associate the voice on the phone with someone who could be trying to steal their money.Most believe that the caller is a nice young man or woman simply trying to make a living, such as a student working his or her way through college, or an ambitious person trying to set a good sales record at the company. Victims think a fraudulent telemarketer’s actions are not crimes, simply hard sells. They may realize that they haven’t gotten their money’s worth, but they are reluctant to admit that they have been cheated or robbed by illegal telemarketers.

THE FIRST STEP in helping older people who may be targets of fraud is to convince them that the person on the other end of the line could be a crook!Once they understand that illegal telemarketing is a serious crime — punishable by heavy fines and long prison sentences — they are more likely to hang up and report calls to the authorities.

Older people may be surprised to know that there are an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilking thousands of victims every day. They rob with phones instead of guns. And they don’t care about the pain they cause when they steal an elderly person’s life savings. If they are caught, they can be put in jail – where they belong.

Older people are frequent targets of fraudulent telemarketers. They need help because:

  • IT IS HARD TO TELL IF A CALLER IS LEGITIMATE. Good salespeople are convincing and so are crooks.
  • IT IS HARD TO HANG UP. Many people feel that it’s impolite to hang up on callers. And swindlers know how to take control of the conversation, either by pretending to be very friendly or by using bullying tactics.
  • SENIOR CITIZENS ARE TARGETED RELENTLESSLY. Some older people get more than 20 calls a day from scam artists — the same ones trying to wear them down, or ones who know they’ve been victimized before and think they’re vulnerable.
  • SENIORS TEND TO TRUST THE CALLER. Targets of fraud often don’t realize that the person on the phone could be a crook. They give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • WE ALL WANT TO BELIEVE. Who doesn’t want to win a valuable prize or strike it rich on an investment? People want to believe that it’s their lucky day, and may react with anger or suspicion when friends or family question their optimism.

It’s hard to hang up on people — especially when the caller sounds so polite and friendly. But people wouldn’t let strangers into their homes or accept rides from someone they didn’t know. So, they should handle telephone calls from strangers the same way.

Elderly Targets of Fraud Need to Know That:

  • illegal telemarketing is a crime, and that fraudulent telemarketers are criminals;
  • the FBI reports that there are an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilking consumers every day;
  • as much as $40 billion per year is lost to fraudulent telemarketers;
  • you can’t tell by the tone of someone’s voice if the caller is legitimate;
  • legitimate companies don’t pressure people into sending money immediately;
  • it’s illegal for contests or sweepstakes to require payment to enter or claim a prize;
  • legitimate marketers are willing to send written information about the products or services they’re selling;
  • giving money to a fraudulent telemarketer usually means losing it forever;
  • reporting suspected telemarketing crime is essential to stop it;

AND THEY NEED TO KNOW they can protect themselves from being targets of fraud by:

  • telling the caller that they want to check it out and asking for a number to call back. If the caller refuses to give the number or insists on an immediate decision, it’s a “red flag of fraud.”
  • calling the NCL’s National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060.


If an older person is:

  • receiving lots of junk mail for contests, “free” trips, prizes and sweepstakes,
  • getting frequent calls from strangers offering valuable awards or great money-making opportunities, or asking for charitable contributions,
  • making repeated and/or large payments to out-of-state companies,
  • having payments picked up by private courier services,
  • receiving lots of cheap items such as costume jewelry, small appliances, pens and pencils, beauty products, water filters, etc. (often purchased in order to win supposedly valuable prizes, or these were the prizes that they got),
  • getting calls from organizations offering to recover money that they have paid to telemarketers, for a fee,
  • then, he or she may be a target of fraud.

Sometimes it’s not easy to convince people that telemarketers offering big prizes or no-risk, high yield investment opportunities may be crooks.The National Fraud Information Center Can Help!The National Fraud Information Center, which is run by the National Consumers League, the oldest non-profit consumer organization in the United States, has professional counselors who will let callers know if an opportunity seems to be a typical telemarketing scam. They can make referrals to the appropriate enforcement agencies, and give reassurance to older people who may be targets of fraud that they are not alone.

The center can also advise friends and relatives of older people who are concerned that they might be actual or potential victims of fraud. We have free materials about the different types of telemarketing fraud. And it’s easy to reach us at our toll-free number:1-800-876-7060

We’ll take the information and provide it to law enforcement officials who need it. We also provide advice and make referrals to the appropriate agencies.THEY CAN’T HANG UPhelp for elderly people targeted by fraud is a a project of the National Consumers League.WHO IS INVOLVED

NCL’s National Fraud Information Center, and other organizations like the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, and Operation Phonebusters in Canada, are working together to solve the problem of elderly fraud victimization. They welcome advice, suggestions, or information about effective strategies for combatting telemarketing fraud.

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. NCL’s three-pronged approach of research, education and advocacy has made it an effective representative and source of information for consumers and workers. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to representing consumers on issues of concern including health care, food and rug safety, fair labor standards, telecommunications, financial services, and fraud.

NCL runs the National Fraud Information Center, which was created in 1992. NCL staff answers the NFIC 800 hotline, which consumers from across the United States can call to receive advice and tips on how to spot possible fraud and to report it.

For more information, or to become a member, write or call the National Consumers League at 1701 K Street, N.W., Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20006, (202) 835-3323. To reach NCL’s National Fraud Information Center, call (800) 876-7060.
The National Consumers League’s elder fraud project is underwritten by a grant from the American Express Company.

Individual copies of NCL’s consumer education brochure, “They Can’t Hang Up,” are available for free by calling 1-800-876-7060. Bulk copies can be shipped for a small fee by contacting the address or phone number below.
NCL also offers a 20-minute video with personal stories told by fraud victims and helpful advice for seniors and their families. NCL ( The National Consumers League) has produced a 28-page report outlining the problem of telemarketing fraud against older people and strategies for empowering them to fight back.

These are available for a small fee. Contact NCL for prices.To order, or for more information, call or write:
National Consumers League
1701 K Street, N.W., Suite 1200
Washington, D.C. 20006
(202) 835-3323.Source: