Elder Advocates Warn of Coronavirus Scams


Photo courtesy of Glen Fishman.

Phone and email scams are nothing new, but crises create an opportunity for those who prey on fear, and during the coronavirus pandemic, variations on old scams have cropped up that target the vulnerable — that might be people who are isolated or who have limited digital literacy. Glen Fishman, Senior Program Coordinator for the Elder Abuse Prevention Program at the Institute on Aging, has been working on heading off scams since before San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order. He says research suggests one in 10 older adults experience abuse, and seniors lose more money to scams than other age groups. Fishman has heard reports of a variety of scams, including people fraudulently identifying themselves as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or city health department personnel and going door-to-door to gain entry to homes.

“An older adult gets a call either early in the morning or late at night when they’re a little disoriented or maybe sleeping. The calls says they’re a lawyer or maybe the police from wherever they say their grandson is at, demanding money. So the variation on that is we’re hearing that people get a call saying you have a relative that’s tested positive for COVID-19, they’re in the hospital, and extra money is needed for their care.”

Glen Fishman

Fishman has compiled a list of resources and ways to help:

Stay Connected:

  • Friendship Line: ioaging.org 800-971-0016
  • Covia: community based non-profit has two programs: Well Connected (offers activities/educational programs via phone) and Social Call (matches volunteers with seniors for social conversations) programs: covia.org 925-956-7400
  • Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly: littlebrotherssf.org 415-771-7957

Resources for Alerts:

Reporting scams:

  • San Francisco’s district attorney’s office set up a hotline to report scams: 415-551-9595
  • Reporting to Adult Protective Services: 415-355-6700 or ReporttoAPS.org

Don't miss out on our newest articles, episodes and events!
Sign up for our newsletter