a blog from CenturyLink

How to talk to your parents about senior scams

by | Feb 1, 2023


Have your parents ever told you about a “weird” phone call or email they received? Maybe they mentioned that the IRS called them about paying their taxes. Or maybe they got a call saying they won the lottery! Of course, you know that these are scams, but your parents may not be aware of the dangers of online senior scams.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that adults over 60 are nearly six times more likely than younger consumers to report losing money due to a tech support scam. They’re also three times more likely to report losses on prizes, sweepstakes, or lottery scams. In this article, learn how to talk to your parents or elderly loved ones about senior scams.

Young woman talking to her mom about senior scams

Understanding why seniors fall for scams

Why are seniors more likely to fall for these types of scams than younger consumers? Since they grew up in an age before computers, they’re usually not as tech-savvy as their children and grandchildren. This makes them far more likely to fall victim to cybercrime. In general, scammers tend to target older Americans because they expect them to be more trusting. Seniors are also more likely to have a nest egg or a hefty retirement account.

Older people are less likely to report scams because they don’t know who to turn to. Your parents might also be embarrassed to admit to you that they fell for a scam. It’s important to be understanding about the situation and not shame the elderly for falling for a scam.

How to talk to your parents about senior scams

With so many different scams out there, it’s important to make sure your parents know what to do if approached by a scammer. The best way to do this is to sit down and have an honest conversation about the risks and dangers of fraud.

Woman talking to a senior about scams

Don’t shame or blame

While your instinct might be to get frustrated with your parents for falling for a scam, stay calm and remember they have a different relationship with technology than you do. For those of us who grew up with the internet, it might be easier to spot a scam. Be patient with your loved ones. Shaming them for their mistake will lead to being hesitant to tell you about scams in the future.

Educate them on different types of scams

One of the main reasons that seniors fall victim to scams is they’re unaware of all the different varieties. They might not know what phishing is. Make sure to explain that the IRS and other government institutions will never contact them via phone or email for payment. Show them what a wrong number text scam might look like. And of course, make sure to stay educated on new scams, so you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Seniors holding hands

Explain the consequences of scams

Many seniors don’t realize the consequences of giving out their personal information to scammers. Help your parents understand how identity theft works and how much money they could lose to scammers. Identity theft doesn’t always look the same. It can range from opening fraudulent bank accounts in your name to using your driver’s license to get out of traffic violations. Other scammers can use your identity to steal your tax refund or pose as you to receive medical services.

Keep a “refusal script”

The AARP recommends drafting a “refusal script” for your parents to refer to. The script can be as simple as: “Sorry, I am not interested. I do not give personal information over the phone.” Write or type this script for your parent and keep it near their phone or on their fridge for easy access. You can also practice the script with them in advance.

Woman hugging her mom

Opt out of junk mail

Unlist your parents’ phone number from common online directories so scammers can’t contact them by phone. You can also put your parents’ address on opt-out lists. This way, vendors won’t send junk mail, and scam mail will be easier to catch.

A guide to the internet for seniors

If your parents didn’t grow up with smartphones and technology, there can be some real barriers. These barriers could include physical limitations, distrust of the tools, and fear that new technology is too difficult to use. If you think your parent could use a refresher on the internet, send them our guide to the internet for seniors.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/emilyr" target="_self">Emily Richey</a>

Emily Richey


Emily Richey is the Content Manager for the CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber blogs. A recent graduate of Pace University NYC, she's an avid reader and writer. She spends most of her free time in bookstores and cafes, seeking the perfect cup of coffee.