Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

12/8/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

The financial experts at Kiplinger’s provide 5 scam-proof best practices for seniors. Whether you’re taking safety measures for yourself or implementing them for a significant senior in your life, these easy, important guidelines for avoiding scams don’t require a degree in technology.

The FBI estimates that seniors lose more than $3 billion each year to scammers. But while criminals are smart, you can be smarter.

Experts recommend putting in place the following policies that can protect you and sticking to them no matter how legitimate a request or opportunity seems.

Scam-proof best practices for seniors

1. Protect your phone from scams.

Smartphones are tiny computers that live in our pockets but can access much of our personal information. These devices need to be protected as vigilantly as you do your home, which you lock whenever you leave.

Your phone’s passcode works the same way. Set one up so that only you can unlock your phone. To make sure that thieves don’t get in by the back door, only download apps that you or someone you trust has vetted.

Take advantage of the options from cellular providers and manufacturers to send unknown numbers directly to voice mail. “On your smartphone, you can go into your settings and have any unknown number go straight into voicemail,” says Amy Nofziger, director of fraud victim support with AARP. “Put your contacts in your phone with their name so if your granddaughter is calling you, you see it’s your granddaughter.”

If you have an older family member who may be vulnerable, help them set up these protections.

2. Build in safeguards.

Use strong, original passwords for different accounts, especially financial accounts, says Satnam Narang, staff research engineer at cybersecurity firm Tenable. That way, if one gets hacked, the others remain secure.

Consider password management software, which makes it easier to use complex passwords, so that you don’t have to remember random strings of digits. Install security software on your devices, like an antivirus program or encryption.

Related: 7 Common Senior Scams

“Make sure you have two-factor authentication on your accounts,” he says, so that even when you put in the password, you have to verify that it’s you with a code you receive by text message or a security app on your phone.

3. Switch to a better device.

Consider using an iPad or tablet instead of a laptop or desktop, which can offer more avenues for entry from viruses and scammers.

4. Review privacy settings on social media.

Make sure your information is only visible to those you choose. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms will walk you through the steps to change your privacy settings, or you can ask a younger relative to help you.

5. Wait and talk.

One of the best protections we have is a gut check with a family member or friend. Before you make a purchase or send money, ask someone you trust what they think. Whenever you buy yourself time to think about a request, you’re more likely to recognize a scam.

Just because someone calls or emails you doesn’t mean you owe them your time. “Being assertive is not being rude,” Nofziger says. “That is a stranger calling into your home using your phone that you pay for. It’s OK to say no.”

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a contributing writer at Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. For more like scam-proof best practices and similar money topics, visit

© 2021 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff