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Senior Couple on Laptop April 12, 2024

How Residents of Senior Citizen Homes Can Avoid AI Scams

By: Country Meadows | Helping Seniors, Senior Living

Seniors have long been targeted by scammers as easy marks, from fake sweepstakes to computer tech support to the Nigerian prince email phishing scams. But with advances in technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is making it even easier to dupe unsuspecting residents in senior citizen homes, and much, much scarier.

In November 2023, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, led by Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) held a hearing titled “Modern Scams: How Scammers Are Using Artificial Intelligence & How We Can Fight Back.” The committee heard from six people who had been targeted by scams that implemented AI and explored the ways it is being used by scammers.

One of the witnesses spoke about a scam that used voice cloning technology to mimic his son’s voice. The fake son said he had been in an accident, his nose had been broken, he was in jail and he needed money. This was an AI-version of a scam that a Country Meadows resident, and many other residents of senior citizen homes, have experienced.

Terms residents of senior citizen homes should know

While residents of senior citizen homes may already be familiar with terms like phishing and spam, AI has introduced new terms that everyone needs to understand:

  • Deepfakes are photos or videos that have been AI-generated to look authentic even though they are not.
  • Voice cloning technology can be used to mimic voices familiar to the target, such as a child or grandchild.
  • Chatbots use technology that can simulate human conversation. Not always malicious, this technology is often used in customer service applications. But when exploited for a scam, it has the potential to obtain and manipulate data from unsuspecting victims who may believe they are communicating with a trustworthy person.

Common types of scams

  • Family emergency scams rely on the victim’s panic and desire to help a loved in trouble. The latest versions of these scams use deepfake photos or videos or cloned voice technology to impersonate a victim’s family member. These scams claim the family member is hurt or going to jail or in some other danger and needs money immediately. Money is often transferred to bitcoin or off-shore accounts leaving no recourse for recovery. Family emergency scams are a version of imposter scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), imposter scams remained the top fraud category in 2023, with reported losses of $2.7 billion. These scams include people pretending to be your bank’s fraud department, the government, a relative in distress, a well-known business or a technical support expert.
  • Phishing scams, or scams that try to get victims to willingly divulge financial information or to send money, are increasingly utilizing AI to create personalized emails that can seem authentic and even bypass spam filters. CNBC reported that “Since the fourth quarter of 2022, there’s been a 1,265% increase in malicious phishing emails, and a 967% rise in credential phishing in particular, according to a new report by cybersecurity firm SlashNext.”
  • Romance scams aren’t only for the young. Lonely older adults, such as residents in senior citizen homes, can be scammed by too-good-to-be-true romantic partners on dating apps who trick them into sending money.

Tips to protect yourself from AI scams

Tim Maier, Director of Information Technology for Country Meadows Retirement Communities, advises, “Having a discussion with family members about dealing with scams ahead of time can be a low-tech way to combat even the most high-tech AI scams. As a family, discuss what type of communication should raise suspicion, what to do if you encounter a possible scam and make sure everyone understands that it is ok reach out if there is any question.”

Recommendations for residents in senior citizen homes to avoid being scammed include:

  • Be skeptical when receiving unsolicited calls or emails.
  • Have a safe word that family members can use to confirm their identity.
  • Don’t share sensitive information such as bank accounts, Social Security number or driver’s license by email, phone or social media.

Learn more about scams affecting residents in senior citizen homes

The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging has published a brochure of tips to deal with the emerging threat of AI in scams targeting aging Americans. Download a copy at https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/fraud_brochure__english.pdf

For more about top scams, check out the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging annual Fraud Book.

AARP also explores AI scams and offers these tips for protecting yourself.

About Country Meadows

Family is important at Country Meadows. That’s why we have created a Resource Center and a blog to help families learn more about topics of interest to seniors, such as avoiding scams.

Founded by former Pennsylvania Governor George M. Leader and his wife Mary Jane, Country Meadows Retirement Communities offers independent living, assisted living and personal care, and memory support in neighborhood locations in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Md.

Call our friendly co-workers to learn more or to schedule a tour today!


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