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Many Older Americans Unaware of Common Scams, Survey Finds

Lack of knowledge puts them at greater risk

Cropped shot of a senior couple working on their finances at home

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Most Americans age 65 and older don't have some of the most common financial scams on their radar, a new survey shows.

Six in 10 respondents were not aware of the so-called pigeon drop scam, according to an online survey conducted for the American International Group, or AIG, a global finance and insurance company.

In a pigeon drop, a bad actor purports that a large amount of money has been found and it will be shared with a victim after he or she forks over some money.

That and other findings show many older Americans are vulnerable to manipulation and deceit, says Kevin Hogan, CEO of AIG Life & Retirement, which commissioned the national survey.

On the positive side, most seniors are taking steps to safeguard their wealth by, for example, not responding to urgent calls, texts or emails asking for personal information, the survey found.

Other key findings:

  • 57 percent of survey respondents age 65-plus were not aware of online romance scams in which a victim is asked for money or something of value.
  • 57 percent were not aware of invoice scams in which a victim is contacted by someone claiming to work on behalf of a company, such as a utility, to collect fees.
  • 52 percent were not aware of prepaid credit card or debit card scams in which a victim is asked to make a payment or multiple payments to a utility — or other business — to eliminate a debt.

One in 10 seniors were not aware of any of 10 common financial scams, the survey found.

Savvy seniors step up

On the bright side, seniors recognize the need to protect themselves, including the 92 percent of respondents age 65-plus who said they ignore calls, texts or emails asking for personal information.

In addition, 89 percent of respondents age 65-plus said they do not click on links in emails sent by strangers; 65 percent said they review their credit reports; 63 percent said they set up alerts from their financial institution; and 60 percent said they only give out personal financial information by phone if they initiated the call.

AIG, based in New York City, warns that as older Americans enjoy the fruits of their labor during their golden years, their financial security may be jeopardized by cognitive decline as well as fraud and financial exploitation.

"We all want to age with grace, maintain independence for as long as possible and have the freedom to manage our money accordingly,” Hogan says. “Longer lives and longer retirements often require a collaborative effort to help seniors protect themselves and ensure their savings can last a lifetime.”

The survey was conducted by Morning Consult last June 20-23 and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points, according to AIG.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.