Older adults can be at risk for any number of scams designed to take money from them. Seniors also can be vulnerable to abuse. Learn how to recognize and avoid these dangers.

Prevent abuse

The Institute on Aging estimates that each year hundreds of thousands of seniors are abused, neglected, and exploited by family members and others. Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable.

Abuse comes in many forms. Learn how you or a loved one can avoid being a victim.

Steer clear of consumer scams

Telemarketing scams and other types of fraud often target elderly people. Visit the National Consumer Law Center to learn how to protect yourself or a loved one from shady schemes.

Find other resources on protecting yourself from elder abuse and fraud on the U.S. government’s Administration on Aging and USA.gov websites.

Drugs over the Internet — a word of caution

Not all online drug merchants have your health and best interests at heart. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers tips and advice on how to safely buy medicines and medical products online.

Pass up unproven remedies

Be skeptical of drugs that manufacturers claim will "slow aging," "increase your libido," or "boost your immune system." Remember, claims can be made for natural products and dietary supplements even through there may be little or no scientific proof that they're true.

The FDA is not able to regulate dietary supplements, including many so-called "natural" products, the way it regulates prescription and nonprescription drugs. If you are taking supplements — such as herbs, amino acids, enzymes, and hormones like DHEA and melatonin — be sure to tell your doctor. Some supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause harmful interactions.

Don't be duped by drug ads

Drug companies spend huge amounts of money and resources to get people to request certain drugs from their doctors. Advertisements for prescription drugs play heavily on emotional appeal, and you may come away from an ad convinced that a drug is right for you.

But remember: The purpose of these ads is to sell products, not to present a balanced view of the product compared to other medications (or of the value of drug treatment compared to healthy lifestyle changes).

Reviewed by Tracy Lippard, MD, July 2019