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Alert: Sweepstakes Scams Are the New Elder Abuse

An elderly woman was sent a check for $600,000 with a phone number and she called to see if it was real. The scammer asked her for information, like her birthday and social security number to verify her identity. The scammer told her she was legit and to deposit the check. But, she was to send back $7,500 to cover fees associated with her “winnings” from a sweepstakes.

In Minnesota, another elderly woman lost more than $109,000, in increments, ranging from $78 – $21,000. She believed she won a Las Vegas area sweepstakes. Beginning in September 2018, the 77-year old woman was told she won over $1.5 million and a brand new, custom designed Mercedes Benz. She began withdrawing from her accounts shortly after and making deposits to a scammer who did not produce the million plus dollars promised.

Various scams from door-to-door home repair, Medicare refunds, tax fraud and pyramid schemes have taken financial advantage of older adults. However, it is the sweepstakes contests where scammers find the most success preying on elderly victims.

There are many reasons why, but many believe that the sweepstakes, like Publisher’s Clearing House, have been around the longest. Former spokespersons have been favorites of the elderly and their reputations have been used to defraud seniors. Fraudulent companies spoofing the names and logos of trusted organizations are stealing large amounts from the most vulnerable Americans.

Add to it the use of technology, the dark web and internet identity theft, our elderly— most of whom are living on a fixed budget— are devastated by these breaches of trust.

One study says the elderly lose anywhere from $2.9 billion to $36 billion annually from financial exploitation. Many are too ashamed to even report being abused in this way. Data shows 20% of older people admit they talk about money with strangers and scammers out of loneliness.

Financial abuse of the elderly is egregious, an affront to who we are and who we should be. So how do we keep our older loved ones protected?

Remind all the older people you love that as scammers get more technologically advanced and scams take on a new, scarrier appearance: “if it is too good to be true, it is” and sweepstakes are free. If they didn’t enter it or cannot recall entering one, it’s likely, they didn’t.

Have your loved ones been a victim of such a scam? Tell us your story or contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to on Twitter, FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!

About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!

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