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10 of the Con Artists' Favorite Ways to Scam the Elderly

The older we get, the more attractive we become to fraudsters. Preying on those breakdowns that come with age, from hearing loss to loneliness, criminals tailor special scams.

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Bonus: 11. The Classic Con
Meeting seniors anywhere -- at religious institutions, community centers, retirement homes, the beach or the supermarket -- old-fashioned classic con artists envision red bullseyes shimmering on the faces of their prey. "The first thing they do is become your new best friend," Kleinman says. "They ask questions to see where your Achilles heel is: Oh, you're a widow. Oh, you love your grandchildren. Oh, your relatives all live out of state. And you're so lonely that you think: Yeah, I'll talk to this person about my IRA. And I'll listen when he says he needs a loan, or when he says he's with Goldman Sachs and has a good deal for me that will help me fund my grandchildren's education and retire more comfortably. And of course he wouldn't scam me, because he's a member of my church."

Both Kleinman and Roubicek recommend vigilance and a certain amount of what feels like rudeness.

"When strangers call, we want people to just hang up," Kleinman says. "When strangers come to the door, don't open it."

"I've seen heartbreaking crimes against the elderly," Roubicek says, "but it hasn't been prioritized by the government," mainly because of society's reluctance to see seniors as disabled by virtue of just being old.

"Aging is a disabling process. In one way or another, these people are disabled, and therefore more vulnerable, and it's okay to say so. I think we'd probably be more protective of the elderly if we could just recognize that."

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger's Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli's writings on scavenging at

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