Con Artists Taking Advantage of Elderly With Dementia

Older adults have long been the target of fraud and scams. There are several reasons for this but the most common is impaired judgment and loss of cognitive ability. The onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may make your loved one a target for scammers and con artists.

The Prevalence of Modern Scams

Let’s face it, we have all come across someone who has tried to get money or information out of us. Be it through someone on the street asking for money or emails offering “special” deals.  As adults, we are usually able to assess the situation and make a judgment call. We notice that the beggar is wearing expensive shoes and probably isn’t homeless; we are wary when the email asks for our credit card or banking information. We encounter a variety of these attempts on a regular basis. Imagine someone with Alzheimer’s reacting to these situations.

It is easy to assume that a loved one, such as a parent, wouldn’t fall for a scam. After all, they are the ones who taught us to be careful of strangers. Early onset dementia may go undetected for years. Even when diagnosed, many family members attribute the forgetfulness to old age and may be in denial. In some cases, a spouse may be able to protect the other from such cons. However, what if both parents show signs of dementia? Alternatively, what if the spouse is a widow or widower? These are the people who become easy targets. Many are targeted over and over before loved ones realize it.

Cons Come in Many Forms

It is important to understand that cons and fraud come in many forms. Most of us are aware of the phone calls that ask for financial information to secure a prize won, or to take advantage of investment opportunities. However, many con artists pose themselves as family members, such as grandchildren, and ask them to wire money. This scam can be performed over the phone or via email/internet. With baby boomers reaching the 65+ range, older adults will be computer users, unlike in the past. It doesn’t take much for a loved one to lose all of their savings.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all con artists work anonymously. Sadly, there are daily occurrences when local businesses and even neighbors take advantage of older adults, either by scare tactics or outright lying to them.

Cons and frauds have always been a part of society. The advancements in technology have made it easier for more of them to reach us and our loved ones so we must be more careful than ever. Below are three of the most popular ways scammers take advantage of the elderly with dementia and how you can prevent them.

Popular Scams

  • Fake prizes or sweepstakes. Typically, these scams are run by large crime rings as opposed to individuals. You are requested to send money which will take care of processing fees and the taxes of your winnings, but you won’t receive any winnings at all.
  • Credit card and bank fraud alerts. It is not uncommon to receive phone calls from telephone solicitors informing you that your credit card was stolen and there are fraudulent charges. These solicitors create urgency and panic in the hopes that you will share private information. Before you share any information, research the agency they are representing, take down the phone number and find out whether the call was legitimate or fraudulent.
  • Door-to-door salesmen. These salespeople could be offering to sell any item to you but usually at overpriced fees. If you sign a contract, typically there is some hidden or confusing text that includes recurring fees.

How to Prevent Scams at Home

  • Allow the telephone to go to the answering machine if the number is unknown.
  • Don’t open your front door to any unfamiliar faces or simply put a ‘no soliciting’ notice in the front of your home.
  • Never give out private numbers such as a social security number until you have done your own research about the agency in question.
  • Register phone numbers in the ‘do not call’ registry (

How to Prevent Scams Online

  • Try to buy from websites that you are familiar with. If you find a product that is of interest, do a Google search or try to find it on a more reliable website such as Amazon.
  • Make sure that you have anti-virus systems set up in your computer. When an email or website seems shady, you will typically receive a warning from the virus system warning you of a potential problem with the site.
  • Do not send private information over the internet. If you receive an email from a health insurance company or bank requesting sensitive information, pick up the phone and call them to ensure that the email is legitimate.

We are interested in hearing your experiences on this topic. Have you or a loved one been the target of a scam? How did you discover it? How did you deal with it? Please share your stories. Your experiences may help others in similar situations. 

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.