The Rise of Cryptocurrency Scams Involving Older Adults

When you think about cryptocurrency, it’s unlikely that an image of older adults spending bitcoin comes to mind. But according to the FBI, scams involving crypto funds and older people are on the rise.

Illustration of masked criminal hovering behind a senior citizen holding a smartphone and wearing a cape iStock

Forbes explains that cryptocurrency is “a digital, encrypted and decentralized medium of exchange.” This means:

  • There is no physical aspect to the funds. You can’t hold the money in your hands.
  • Funds can’t be replicated or double-spent because they are encrypted via blockchain technology.
  • There is no central regulating body (such as the government) overseeing its usage.  
Excerpt from article that states “Scammers like cryptocurrency because the encryption makes theft difficult for law enforcement to track.”

There are thousands of different cryptocurrencies available, from the well-known bitcoin to the lesser-heard-of litecoin. Scammers like cryptocurrency because the encryption makes it difficult for law enforcement to theft.   

H2: How cryptocurrency scams work on older adults: Banks accounts, bitcoin and beyond 

The FBI’s annual Elder Fraud Report revealed that older Americans lost over $3 billion to crypto fraud in 2022. 

The scam often begins on social media with paid ads targeted at older adults offering amazing investment opportunities that, if not closely examined, really seem like good deals. 

Other times, the imposter contacts the person directly by phone or email, claiming there’s an issue with their bank account and they must make a crypto investment in order to resolve the problem. The scammer instructs the target to convert cash to cryptocurrency and upload it to an unsecured account that the scammer can access. 

For example, recently a scammer convinced an older adult to take $20,000 out of their bank account and put it into crypto assets. In another instance, an older adult withdrew $60,000 from their account, converted it to cryptocurrency and uploaded those assets to a digital wallet owned by the scammer.  

Tips for navigating cryptocurrency scams with older adults

If you think an older adult you care about may have been the target of a cryptocurrency scheme, follow these tips: 

  • Take a deep breath. There may still be time to help your loved one recover their money.   
  • Cancel what you can. It may be difficult to tell exactly how much information the scammer obtained. Call suppliers to cancel credit cards, change passwords across accounts, report any suspicious phone numbers or email addresses and then block them.   
  • Contact law enforcement. Explain what’s happened and ask about next steps. 
  • Don’t assume that your older loved one is incapable of financial independence. These scams are designed to deceive unsuspecting older adults and can be difficult to spot. If an older adult shares that they may have been scammed, engage in a friendly discussion. Ask non-accusatory questions about what happened so you can learn the best way to help. 

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