Group of seniors meeting to play golf together.


Ileana van der Linde

Executive Director, Cybersecurity Awareness Global Program Lead

Michelle Maratto

Vice President, Cyber Advisory

As our parents and grandparents age, or if we have vulnerable people that we look out for, it’s natural to be protective while also encouraging them to be independent, if possible. However, this group of elderly and vulnerable people (EVP) is a prime target for cybercriminals and scammers who want to take advantage of them, usually in pursuit of financial gain. In 2022, reported losses were more than $3 billion for elderly victims alone1.

Your loved ones may receive emails, phone calls, texts and even letters in the mail informing them they have won a trip, the lottery or a promise of romance that can sway them into believing in the opportunity. Urgent calls seemingly from the IRS, family members in distress or letters stating their home is in foreclosure can cause emotional distress and panic. Both positive and negative ploys can suspend rational thinking.

Scammers are crafty and have learned what might lure their vulnerable targets and attempt to gain their trust. The promise of financial opportunity has even swayed many elderly to fall for cryptocurrency scams. Monetary losses due to investment fraud by victims over the age of 60 increased more than 300% in 2022, largely due to the rising trend of crypto investment scams2.

Be proactive and discuss how to be on the lookout

Talk to your entire family about the common schemes that cybercriminals employ, which often sound too good to be true. No one is winning anything, getting rich quick or should engage with anyone online that they haven’t met in person.

For elderly and vulnerable family members, it’s important to have this conversation and explain the types of scams specifically targeting them via channels such as phone calls, emails, text, social media and even letters in the mail.

  • Bank Scams – Requests from the “bank” asking for a verification code or a message with a clickable link
  • Social Security/IRS/Medicare impersonation scam – A claim that there is an issue with benefits or potential fraud, and asking for additional information
  • Sweepstakes and lottery scams – Requests for fees or taxes to process the “prize winnings”
  • Family in distress scams – Financial assistance requests to help a loved who is in danger, injured or in jail
  • Romance scams – A new online “friend” suddenly needs money for a medical or business crisis
  • Utility scams – Threats to turn off the power because of a missed payment or indication of a “refund”
  • Delivery scams – Requests for information to deliver a package
  • Computer tech-support scams – Warnings a device is infected with malware with instruction to contact support and provide remote access

In all these cases, there are some key warning signs:

  • Urgency to take action and/or send money
  • Pressure to make decisions quickly
  • Request for personal or sensitive information (i.e., Social Security number, address, bank account number, etc.)

It’s important to educate and reassure your loved ones that anyone can be vulnerable to a well-crafted scam. They should not panic or be embarrassed, but should feel comfortable calling a trusted individual to validate the request or transaction.

Caution your loved ones that some scammers will even threaten the elderly or vulnerable person that they should not tell anyone of the request being made. Some cyber con artists convince their victims to not tell the bank what the money withdrawal is really for. Elders and vulnerable people have a tendency to be polite and have difficulty disengaging. Encourage them to pause and validate the request before taking any action, particularly if it’s urgent or requires a payment. For example, call the service provider on your bill (not the callback number from the caller, letter, email, etc.).

As open artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly develops and voice-cloning tools become readily available, it’s crucial to help the whole family verify the identity of callers, particularly when it seems someone is in a hurry or needs information urgently. One practical yet effective strategy is establishing a “safe word”3 or pre-established code confirming the caller’s identity during a conversation. Here are some tips to create and use “safe words” effectively:

  • Choose a unique, memorable word or phrase
  • Share the “safe word” only with the people you trust who might need to verify your identity over the phone
  • Regularly change the “safe word” to minimize the risk of it being compromised

Dealing with the aftermath

It is important to act quickly and efficiently if your loved one has fallen victim to a scam.

  • If money has been sent, contact financial institutions immediately to report the fraud and ensure accounts are secure
  • Strongly consider implementing two-factor authentication on digital accounts, to avoid further account compromise and exposure of accounts’ personal or sensitive information
  • If an unknown individual was allowed to access a computer/phone, disconnect from the network, and run a reputable anti-virus
  • If it is not done already, freeze their credit or lock the credit (not credit monitoring), this will prevent fraudsters from opening up accounts in their name
  • The U.S Department of Justice manages the National Elder Fraud Hotline (833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311), the first national hotline to assist older victims and their families in reporting fraud and/or finding local assistance4
  • You can also report elder fraud to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

We can help

J.P. Morgan is committed to providing safe, resilient services to our clients and partners within an ever-evolving threat landscape. If you believe you may have been a victim of cyber scam or experience fraud, contact your J.P. Morgan advisor immediately.

Stay on top of the latest in fraud protection, by visiting our Cybersecurity and Fraud Prevention Hub.



FBI, “Federal Bureau of Investigation Elder Fraud Report.” (2022)




Slate, “The Next A.I. Scam Is Here—and It Could Cost You Thousands.” (March 24, 2023)


for Victims of Crime, “National Elder Fraud Hotline.”

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