Protect Yourself from Online Scams

In the 2020 edition of its “Elder Fraud Report,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) noted that its Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, received nearly 800,000 complaints of Internet fraud. Based on the information provided in the complaints, IC3 determined that approximately $1 billion of the money lost belonged to people over the age of 60. Unfortunately, compared to 2019, this is an increase of approximately $300 million, which means that elder fraud is an ongoing problem that isn’t likely to go away.[1]

Are Seniors Being Targeted?

The answer is yes, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, whose data indicates that the elderly are the most frequent targets of fraud scams.[2] Most likely, that’s because seniors who are retired are more available to be contacted by scammers. In addition, elderly people are more likely to:

  • Be willing to listen
  • Be trusting and polite
  • Be vulnerable due to loneliness, grief or loss
  • Have financial resources due to a lifetime of hard work

Although knowing that you are a target can be scary, it can also help you be more aware and take steps to protect yourself. So please keep reading to learn how to spot scams and what you can do to keep your money and personal information safe online.


The Top 5 Internet Scams Against Seniors

By examining fraud complaints made by victims over the age of 60, the IC3 has determined that the following are the most common online scams targeting seniors.[3]

1. Confidence and romance
Scammers carrying out this type of crime typically create fake online identities and reach out to potential victims to establish relationships. The relationships can be friendly or have the promise of romance, even proposed marriage, but the goal is to gain trust and eventually your hard-earned money. Another type of confidence scheme is when someone claims to be a family member or other loved one in trouble.

Whatever the scenario, scammers are likely to claim they need help due to medical conditions, medical emergencies or unexpected expenses, such as legal fees. They may also ask victims to make investments and/or buy virtual currencies.

check markProtect yourself by:

  • Remembering that online profiles can be phony; what you see is not always what you get
  • Being cautious if you decide to use an online dating site; ask questions and meet in person in a public location
  • Checking with family members to verify if a loved one is actually in need of help, even if the person asks you not to
  • Recognizing the red flags, which include the demand for secrecy, inability to meet in person and pressure to make investments

    XAnd DO NOT:

    • Give money to someone you’ve never met in person
    • Share your financial or personal information
    • Send inappropriate photos or videos to anyone

2. Nondelivery and fake products
In 2020, with the pandemic forcing many of us to stay at home, online shopping increased, even among older Americans, whose Internet buying had been very low. In fact, since 2020, the over-65 set has become the fastest-growing group of online buyers.[4]

Unfortunately, scammers used this opportunity to create ads to lure shoppers into placing orders with fake organizations that either never deliver any products or deliver counterfeit items or items that are completely different from what was ordered. 

check markProtect yourself by:

  • Limiting your online purchases to only reputable companies that you already know, such as major retail chains and reputable online retailers
  • Visiting these companies’ websites by typing in their web addresses in your web browser, so you know you’re accessing the real site
  • Being wary of products promising unrealistic results
  • Paying with a credit card rather than a debit card or bank transfer, since many credit card providers offer purchase protection


  • Click on ads, even if they seem to be from reputable companies
  • Click on links in emails, even if they appear to be from reputable companies
  • Be enticed by significantly cheaper prices, miracle cures and apparent celebrity endorsements

3. Tech Support
This common scheme is when victims are fooled into thinking they need to take some action to resolve an urgent situation, such as a virus or hackers on their computers or a locked account, which could be bank or credit card accounts, home utilities accounts, online shopping accounts and so on. Then, when trying to get help from fake tech support representatives, the victims end up actually giving their account and other information to the scammers.

Although this crime often occurs over the phone, people also fall victim by responding to emails and on-screen warning messages. Some common email examples include urgent warnings of fraudulent activity on your account that needs to be addressed or warnings that your antivirus software or other subscription has expired and needs to be updated. Some common on-screen pop-up messages include alerts that viruses have been detected or that hackers have taken control, along with phone numbers to call to get help. The messages make the situation seem like a crisis, so people are motivated to act quickly without thinking that it might be a scam.

check markProtect yourself by:

  • Recognizing that real issues with your accounts will not be sent to you via email or pop-up notifications
  • Assuming that these types of emails are fake and marking them as junk or spam in your email account
  • Installing antivirus software and software that blocks pop-up ads; if you need help with this, take your devices to a trusted local computer support company or ask a knowledgeable friend or relative


  • Click on links in emails, even if they seem to be from reputable companies; instead, open your web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and type in the web address of the company you want to visit, such as*
  • Respond to pop-up notifications; instead, disconnect your computer and shut down your device
  • Give remote access to your devices or your accounts unless you have requested it from a verified, legitimate local organization
  • Share personal or financial information with anyone you don’t know


4. Government impersonation
There are several types of impersonation, but some of the most common involve criminals claiming to be from government organizations such as Social Security, Medicare, the IRS and the FBI. Often, victims receive phone calls or text messages, but criminals may send emails claiming your Social Security or Medicare accounts have been or will be suspended.

Another version is when someone claims that crimes have been committed using your identity or that you’ve failed to pay taxes. Whatever the claim, they’ll often threaten that you will be arrested or that your accounts will be seized unless you provide immediate payment.

check markProtect yourself by:

  • Recognizing that government and law enforcement officials will not contact you by email (or phone, even if the number on the caller ID looks real – fake versions can be easily created)
  • Assuming that these types of emails are fake and marking them as junk or spam in your email account
  • Realizing that the demand for “immediate payment” is a red flag indicating that these claims are fake
  • Being aware that government officials will never ask for payment by prepaid cards, wire transfers or cash sent through the mail or other carrier


  • Allow yourself to be pressured by scary threats; if you’re afraid, call a trusted family member or local law enforcement
  • Give your Social Security number, Medicare account information or other personal and financial information to anyone you do not know
  • Provide payment for anything by prepaid cards, wire transfers or cash sent through the mail or other carrier

5. Lottery/sweepstakes and inheritance
With lottery/sweepstakes scams, potential victims are told, usually via email or social media message, that they’ve won a lottery or contest, often from a foreign country. To claim the winnings, however, victims are asked to pay fees and taxes, usually by wire transfer or prepaid cards. Scammers may also ask for bank account information to deposit cash prizes. 

The inheritance scam is similar, with victims being notified that an unknown relative has died and left a large financial gift. Again, scammers ask for payment in advance so that the funds can be released.

check markProtect yourself by:

  • Being suspicious of winning contests or sweepstakes you don’t recall entering
  • Immediately deleting emails and messages making such claims
  • Recognizing that you shouldn’t have to pay to receive a prize or inheritance
  • Being aware that requests for payment by wire transfer and prepaid cards are a scam



  • Give out your bank account information
  • Provide personal information, such as Social Security number
  • Pay any amount of money on the promise that you will receive money in return


If You Have Been a Victim
It’s normal to feel embarrassed or ashamed, but please don’t let that keep you from reporting these crimes. And know that you aren’t alone. Many others of all ages have fallen prey to online schemes.

If you’ve been scammed, report the crime, no matter how much money was lost. You can do so by:


The FBI recommends that you provide as much information as possible. This could include:

  •  Names of the scammers and/or company
  • Dates of contact
  • Methods of communication
  • Any phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses and websites used by the criminals
  • The ways you paid or had your money stolen
  • Where you sent funds, gift cards wire transfers, etc.
  • Details about your contact with the scammers and the instructions they provided

And if you have any documentation, such as emails, phone messages, etc., please save them to provide to investigators.[5]

Stay Alert to More Schemes
Although the five scams described above are the most common, fraudsters will continue to try to find new ways to steal information and money. This is easy to forget, especially when someone is pressuring you to act quickly. But remember, no matter how urgent a situation seems, there’s always time to take a breath, think things through and even reach out to a trusted loved one to ask for help.


* Other pharmacies are available in our network. Visit and select LOCATE PHARMACY for a complete list.


[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center. 2020 Elder Fraud Report.

[2] Carter, Misty (2018). The Fraud Examiner. The Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors.

[3] Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center. 2020 Elder Fraud Report.

[4] NPD Group. (2021). 10 Consumer Trends We’re Watching in 2021.

[5] Federal Bureau of Investigation. Elder Fraud.


S7694_22-6799_enewsletter 2022_C Reviewed 03/14/22


Elixir Insurance is a Prescription Drug Plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in Elixir Insurance depends on contract renewal. For more information, please call our customer service number at 866-250-2005. TTY users call 711. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ATTENTION: If you speak Spanish, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 866-250-2005 (TTY: 711). ATENCIÓN: si habla Español, los servicios de asistencia lingüística, sin cargo, están disponibles para usted. Llamada 866-250-2005 (TTY: 711).

Elixir Insurance, 8921 Canyon Falls Blvd., Suite 100, Twinsburg, OH 44087, United States

Topics: Elixir Insurance, Helpful Tips

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*Other pharmacies are available in our network. Visit and select LOCATE PHARMACY for a complete list. This Rite Aid offer is not a plan benefit.