• imgs
    Aging Well Partners
  • Nov 02
  • 4 min



There is a big buzz about the Silver Tsunami of aging coming, and the housing and care crisis we must prepare for; but let’s talk about the Tsunami of scams that has already started on Seniors. According to consumer affairs more than 3.5 million older adults per year are a victim of some type of financial swindling.
Anyone can get scammed. Don’t think you’re 100% insulated. Each day we play defense when we look at email, texts, take phone calls and receive mail out of our mailboxes. Like determined mosquitos that we bat away, there’s always one more right behind it. It’s an endless supply of con artists that are relentless at trying to steal our money and identify. Unfortunately, our population over the age of 70 is taking a particularly bad beating on this.

Sweepstake Scams is a top contender of swindles, and our seniors pay the price with their hard-earned retirement savings. Sometimes all of it.
My mother was scammed, and it took me over a month to realize she was sending a $25 check every day to her scammers. She’d slip out of the house, walk the four blocks to the post office, get them to help her fax her info to the prize notification center, and then she’d mail them a check for $25 every day with the promise of a million dollars coming her way.
I often wonder why no one at the post office ever lifted a finger to stop this obvious scam. I later saw what she was sending, as she meticulously made daily copies at the post office (again they helped her make the copies), yet no one did a thing. After she passed it was heartbreaking to open her safety deposit box and among her “priceless” possessions, was the piece of junk mail scam that she’d won a million dollars.
It happens all the time and it’s not just people with cognitive decline who are scammed, but incredibly sharp and intelligent aging adults who have perhaps been put at a disadvantage at growing up for decades in a tech free society where this type of stuff just couldn’t happen. Is their trust level higher than someone under the age of 40 also a factor? Probably. Many older adults don’t fully understand that giving out your Social Security number is the equivalent of posting all your usernames and passwords on an open social media platform, complete with account numbers, and access to your life savings. It’s a flashing neon of “come and get it!”

I recently had a conversation with an 84-year-old businesswoman on the perils of giving out your SSN. I felt she didn’t have the urgency the matter warranted. I reminded her that once someone has your SSN they can get a: birth certificate, Driver’s License, run a credit report and gain access to your accounts and private financial information; and then it just gets easier for them to assume your identity and steal your assets. Most of the time, your money is transferred to accounts outside the U.S. where there is no hope of ever getting any of it back. Medical care can also be given using your SSN, and if they are really good, they can lock you out of your own accounts. Truly devastating for this to happen to anyone. All because a SSN was shared.

I’ve had no less than three adult children contact me in the last 2 months with tales of their parents’ loss of money from mail scams, but it was this one guy in such anguish, stress, and utter despair that stuck with me. His mother had given over 80K to mail scams. She had emptied out all her cash and was about to start on her investment accounts and home equity, when her family noticed there was a problem and stepped in. It’s shocking when a parent who has always been so responsible is the victim of fraud, especially when you thought you had all the bases covered.

When Is Your Mail A Scam:

  1.  Any sweepstake that demands payment to receive a prize is a scam. The end, no exceptions.
  2. A request for your bank account or financial information? It’s a Scam.
  3. It’s illegal to ask you to pay to enter any kind of sweepstakes so if money is asked for… it’s a scam.
  4. If you didn’t legitimately enter a sweepstakes on your own, and have been notified, you won a prize. It’s a Scam. You can’t win if you don’t play.
  5. Do sweepstakes ask for a social security number? Trick question. Yes, it’s true if you win a prize over $600 you will be asked to provide your SSN for tax purposes, however you first must determine if the prize is a scam (see 1-4). I had a senior tell me; well, the prize is over $600 so legitimately I must provide my SSN so they can report it to the IRS. Yes, but is the contest a scam? That’s the first determination that must be addressed. Furthermore, a legitimate contest won’t ask for your SSN over the phone, but rather through the mail. Most scammers are highly tech savvy and often operate outside the U.S., so once your money is stolen there is no recourse of going after it.

I believe our greatest weapon in life is education, and it’s never too late to learn and create a better life for yourself. Below is a link that can help you reduce and stop junk mail from being delivered (in any state) to your mailbox. It takes a bit of work, but well worth it if it means safeguarding a loved one’s lifesavings and identity.

I would guess that many of these scams might deliver a few dollars in prize money to make it seem legit, as the real win is gaining your SSN. Guard your personal info like the treasure that it is. Don’t let the lure of an exciting “prize” cloud your judgment. Age Well.

Jacqui Clark is a Certified Senior Advisor™ (CSA™) consultant with Living Coastal Senior Resources, and co-founder of Aging Well Partners. She is an industry leading living-and-aging well expert, and a respected communications specialist. She’s lived in San Diego for 35 years, much of that in Carlsbad where she and her husband live with their two daughters. Find Jacqui at www.agingwellpartners.com