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Elder Fraud is ‘Epidemic,’ UVA Health Geriatrician Warns

Scams targeting seniors have become an epidemic, warns UVA Health geriatrician Laurie Archbald-Pannone, MD, whose patients frequently tell her about being fraud victims.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that Americans ages 60 and older were scammed out of more than $3 billion in 2023, according to an article written by Archbald-Pannone and published Monday by The Conversation, a nonprofit news organization that shares articles from academic experts.

Archbald-Pannone notes that whole call centers are often devoted to targeting seniors. But she has a host of helpful tips for how seniors can prevent themselves from falling prey to scammers and what to do if they suspect they are the victim of fraud. 

For example, she recommends that seniors take a moment to do an online search when they receive any unsolicited offer to verify its legitimacy. They should be particularly wary, she says, of any offer or email that claims to be urgent and requires immediate action, especially online. 

She also urges seniors to not be embarrassed and report what happened if they fall prey to a scam. The tactics of elder fraud change quickly, and it can be particularly hard for seniors to keep up with scammers’ techniques and technology, she notes.

A nationally recognized advocate for seniors’ well-being, Archbald-Pannone hopes her simple tips will help ensure that people’s golden years are not tarnished by the fraud epidemic. 

“As with any epidemic, ‘infection control’ tools can help us limit the spread,” she writes. “Much like vaccines create immunity against viruses, prevention efforts can help people build up their defenses to avoid fraud.”