The 10 Most Common Scams Retirees Need to Watch Out for

These common scams may leave retirees paying for a long time.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Sandy Baker Edited By Ellen Cannon
old couple reading documents

We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Retirees are often targets for scams, whether a person is knocking on the door, calling you on your cell phone, or sending you emails. 

As you work to find ways to reduce financial stress, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to fall for one of these scams. 

How do you know if it’s a scam? Here are some of the most common scams and how you can avoid them.

Grandparent scam

De Visu/Adobe old woman talking on smart phone

old woman talking on smart phone

The grandparent scam often involves a phone call to a grandparent pretending to be the person’s grandchild. They ask for money or say that the grandchild is in jail and needs cash to be bailed out.

Before you actually pay anyone money, ensure they are really a relative. They may call with a trick question to get you to reveal information, such as “Grandma, do you know who this is?”

The best way to avoid this scam is simply not to give out any information before you verify who it is. It’s not likely that your grandchild will call you requesting money like this.

Health care scam

goodluz/Adobe doctor reassuring an elderly women in clinic

Seniors may be throwing away their money when it comes to health care scams. Some will call pretending to be from Medicare to try to gain access to your account numbers, personal information, or contact info. 

Others will make statements that they “spoke to your daughter” and that it is “OK to give us your Social Security number.”

Many times, this type of health care scam involves promises to help seniors get a lower price on medical insurance. They may request information to obtain a quote for you, for example. 

However, they are typically not honest and, in most cases, looking for a way to access your money.


Flamingo Images/Adobe old couple working on a laptop

A phishing scam is an email or a text message sent to you that is designed to trick you into providing your financial information or other personal data. The key to avoiding this type of scam is to simply be aware of it and not respond to it when it occurs.

Oftentimes, these scams try to steal your passwords, Social Security Number, account numbers, or other sensitive data, as this information could help them to access your bank account, email, or credit cards.

One of the most common forms occurs when a person sends a story or message that encourages you to click on a link or open an attachment. You may even recognize the company name. 

Beware of any message asking you to click on a link to verify information, confirm personal information, or make a payment.

COVID-19 test scam

BASILICOSTUDIO STOCK/Adobe female health professional collecting nasal swab

A common COVID-19 scam involves someone offering a free test or supplies for someone who's caring for a person with COVID-19. They often claim they are from the local Department of Health or Medicare when making these calls. 

Their goal is simply to get access to the victim’s Medicare information, which then enables them to make false claims on the insurance, leading to costly problems for you for months to come.

Funeral and cemetery scams

Ivan/Adobe old woman talking on smartphone

It is easy enough for a scammer to read the local obituaries or even attend a funeral service and pose as a friend. 

Their goal is to take advantage of the widow or widower, sometimes claiming to have a debt with the person who died. Unfortunately, this is very common, and it can happen to children as well.

In another situation, a funeral director may insist that the family members purchase a casket for their loved one from their selection, or they may claim they need to purchase a casket even if the person will be cremated. 

That’s not necessary since it can also be done in a cardboard casket. Even the funeral director could be wasting your money.

Lottery scams

Stephen VanHorn/Adobe state lottery

Another scam is one that any person would love to think is true. The scammer calls the retiree and promises them that they’ve won a big prize. It could be a gift card or cash, or even something else. 

However, in order to get that winning amount, they must first authorize the payment of a fee or pay taxes on the money they’ve won.

Many times, these scammers use the names of well-known lotteries and sweepstakes programs to help make them sound more convincing. A victim pays the fee, but a prize is never delivered.

Tech support scams

Bojan/Adobe male technical support dispatcher in call center

Some scammers aim to take advantage of people who are not very familiar with using technology. They may prey on people who see a pop-up message warning of pending computer problems and click on it. 

The scammer may then provide a phone number for the user to call for help. The person being scammed calls giving the scammer remote access to the computer so they can steal a person’s data. There have been thousands of similar claims in the U.S.

Investment scams

Looker_Studio/Adobe increasing stack of coins

Investment scams are nothing new. They’ve been used for decades by unscrupulous people looking to steal money by promising a big fortune or a sure deal. 

Financial instruments are confusing, especially newer varieties such as cryptocurrency. These scammers promise that you just need to pay them money and you can make a big return on investment. 

The only way to protect yourself here is to realize that any promise that seems to be too good to be true probably is.

Social Security scams

JohnKwan/Adobe social security and retirement income

A Social Security scam isn’t uncommon, especially since many thieves want this type of personal data to help them to steal a person’s identity. The scammers will call with some request for information or a need to verify the information. 

Sometimes, they even pretend that someone else has used your Social Security number, and to fix it, you verify your identity and, sometimes, pay for the cost of protecting your information. 

Just remember that the Social Security Administration will never call you without contacting you in writing first.

Telemarketing call center manager teaching workers

Sometimes, telemarketers are upfront about the fact they are selling you something. Other times, they are not. 

They may pose, for example, as a local charity, police department, or fire department asking for money. Sometimes they say they represent a sick child. 

The easiest way to avoid falling for this scam is simply to not give money or personal information out over the phone.

Bottom line

Scott Griessel/Adobe happy old woman

There are dozens of scams out there, and it’s nearly impossible to know for sure that you’re making the right decision when providing your personal information.

Before you say yes to anything, do your homework. Call the charity to verify it’s real. Vetting a financial advisor before giving them information can help you avoid costly mistakes. And get familiar with the types of scams you might fall victim to.

Turn Your Savings Into Passive Income

Learn More
Get paid for taking surveys on your favorite brands

Learn More
Save on Your Auto Insurance

Learn More

Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.