Top Scams Targeting Older Americans in 2021

Here’s how to recognize and protect yourself from these costly cons
Frauds aimed at older adults are becoming more creative.
Scammers stay on top of whatever is new, such as the
popularity of Zoom, COVID-19 vaccines and online
shopping, and then move fast to create ploys that best fit
the moment.

COVID-19 vaccination card scams
Many who got a COVID vaccine posted selfies on social
media showing off their vaccination card. Scammers
immediately pounced.
The scheme: With your full name, birth date and
information about where you received your shot, scammers
have valuable data for identity theft, breaking into your bank
accounts, getting credit cards in your name and more.
How to avoid: If you want to inform friends and family that
you got your shots, a selfie with a generic vaccine sticker
will suffice. “Or use a Got My Vaccine profile picture frame
on social media,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody
suggests. And review your social media security settings to
choose who can see your posts.

Phony online shopping websites
Phony retail websites aren’t new, but they look more real
today than ever before. Fake sites are using photos from
real online retailers and mimicking their look and feel.
The scheme: You click on an ad online or on social media,
see stuff you like at a great price, enter your credit card info
… and never receive a product. Or you receive a lower quality item shipped directly from an overseas seller.
How to avoid: Never click on an ad to go to a retailer’s
website. Instead, bookmark the URLs of trusted shopping
websites you visit frequently and use those, suggests Tyler
Moore, professor of cybersecurity at the University of Tulsa.
Don’t bother with trying to figure out whether the web
address is real. Attackers adapt and change them
If you’re considering buying from a new site, first check
online reviews as well as the company’s track record via the
Better Business Bureau’s online directory (

Medicare card scams
Scammers are emailing, calling and even knocking on
doors, claiming to be from Medicare and offering all sorts of
pandemic-related services if you “verify” your Medicare ID
The scheme: The offers include new cards they claim
contain microchips. Some posers are asking for payment to
move beneficiaries up in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.
How to avoid: Hang up the phone, shut the door, and
delete the email. According to the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services, Medicare will never contact you without
permission for your Medicare number or other personal
information. And it will never call to sell you anything. Guard
your Medicare number and never pay for a COVID vaccine.
It’s free.

Social Security scam calls
Scammers are using “spoofed” phone numbers that look
like they’re coming from Washington, D.C., to appear
The scheme: You get a scary phone call saying your Social
Security number was used in a crime — and you’ll be
arrested soon if you don’t send money to fix it. They may
say your number was used to rent a car where drugs were
found and that the Drug Enforcement Agency is on their
way to your house. The caller may refer you to a local law enforcement website where you can see the person’s
picture. You think you’ve checked it out, call them back and
send money.
How to avoid: Don’t pick up the phone unless you
absolutely know who’s calling. If it’s important, they’ll leave
a voicemail.

Account takeover scam texts
Scammers are sending fake text messages alleging
there’s big trouble with your internet account, a credit
card, and bank account or shopping order on Amazon.
They want you to click on links and provide personal
The scheme: The urgent-sounding text message may
have a real-looking logo. People don’t expect
scammers to use text messages, so they’re more
likely to click.
How to avoid: Remember, don’t click on links in
emails and texts that you haven’t asked for. Call your
bank or credit card company to check for a problem.
Installing security software on your computer and
keeping it updated is also crucial, says cybersecurity
expert Brian Payne, of Old Dominion University in
Norfolk, Virginia.

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