One of the hottest growth industries is also illegal and deeply immoral:  scams targeting seniors.   People who engage in these activities typically do so from overseas where they face no penalty, nor risk of imprisonment.  Here are three of the most common scams targeting elders.


The Grandparent Scam

You get a call from somebody claiming to be your grandchild.  They start by saying, “Grandpa, is that you?”  And you might say, “Is that you, Michael?”   At that point, the relationship is established.  “Michael” will say that he is in a predicament, typically out-of-state, and that he needs you to wire money for bail or to pay damages. Unfortunately, “Michael” is a scam artist, and you are out of thousands of dollars.

If this happens, verify that “Michael” really is your grandson.  Ask him questions that only he could answer.  Contact his parents or other family members to confirm the situation.

The Lottery and Sweepstakes Scam

 You get a check in the mail with a letter saying that you have won a large amount of money.  The letter instructs you to deposit the check and wire funds to cover fees, insurance and taxes.  Unfortunately, the check you received is bogus.   The money you send is lost.

The key here is to avoid wiring money to someone whose identity you cannot verify.   If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

The Medical Alert Scam

You get a call from an individual who says they are with Medicare or another government office.  They ask for private information like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or bank account numbers.  They’ll have many reasons why they need this information, such as the issuance of a new card or correcting an error in your files.

Be aware that Medicare (and probably all companies or organizations that have a valid need for your personal information) will never call and ask you for personal data by phone.


About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease.  In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist.  In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.

Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones.  He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio.  He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.

Click here for a listing of other articles from ‘The Caring Corner’ on

Acorn provides screened and vetted in-home caregivers for clients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, ALS and other similar conditions. Options include 24/7, live-in, weekly, weekend or hourly care. Acorn serves Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Pittsboro and surrounding areas in Orange, Chatham, Durham and Wake counties.