Scams Against People with Disabilities

In the US, one in ten adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud each year. Unfortunately, according to the Office for Victims of Crime, people with disabilities are twice as likely to become victims. So how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from this?

To avoid scams, let’s learn five ways that scam artists try to trick people.

Scam #1: Job Scams

A lot of scams promise monetary gain to receive personal information. According to the Neighbors Federal Credit Union, some frauds involve seemingly beneficial agreements such as the chance to work from home and make extra income. Scammers ask for an initial fee for training and materials to trick people into giving them money. Researching these businesses or jobs, with offers that seem too good to be true, is a great way to avoid being scammed. The same approach can be applied to phone calls that offer lottery prizes in exchange for personal information. Again, doing research beforehand will help people avoid being scammed by these fake lottery phone calls.

Scam #2: Government Scams

Some scams pretend to be a government agency to appear credible. Oftentimes, people with disabilities are eligible for Medicare/Medicaid, disability pay, and other government-sponsored benefits. Sadly, scammers take advantage of that. One of their strategies is to claim the victim’s records need to be updated in order to gain their personal information. According to Social Security, no legitimate call will ever request details, such as someone’s social security number, over the phone.

Signs that a call is a scam are:

-A phone request for payment for government programs
-A threat of legal action, arrest, seizure of bank accounts or suspension of a social security number if money is not paid immediately
-A request to pay with gift cards or credit cards
-A website URL that is looks suspicious. For example, instead of it may say
-A demand for someone’s personal information over the phone.

Scam #3: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Scams

The recent rise in improvement of Artificial Intelligence has also been a large cause for concern with fraud. AI scams involve eerily replicated voices of loved ones asking for immediate payment over the phone, posing as a relative or close friend in trouble. These cloned voices are very easy to fall for because they sound exactly like the actual person. To keep you and loved ones safe from this effective scam, it’s recommended to agree on a safeword to confirm that the person behind the phone is very much real. According to USA Today, avoiding safewords that are easily discovered online, such as favorite foods and other personality traits is a wise decision. It’s best to decide on words that only a select few people know to avoid mistaking an AI-altered voice for a loved one. For example, if your spouse were to call you in an urgent situation asking for money to be wired immediately, you should ask for the safeword that you designated beforehand, such as “December” to verify identity.

Scam #4: The Romance Scam aka “The Catfish”

The Romance Scam usually involves the scammer building a fake profile created on a social media platform. The profile will look legitimate and often is full of photos and videos of the profile holder, however, the identity and photos does not match the person behind the screen.

The scammer will strike up a conversation to build trust by talking and asking questions to learn about their victim. They create enough trust to establish a relationship and will feign romantic interest in their victim. Oftentimes, a catfish will talk for hours per day to gain the trust of an unassuming victim. At some point, the catfish will ask for money or items of value. Deputy Jessica Hughey of the Crime Prevention and Community Awareness Unit within the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department has dealt firsthand with countless victims of scams. When asked about the romance scam, Deputy Hughey said, “The scammer is an expert at what they do and will seem genuine, caring and 100% believable. The victim may believe they are in a relationship with the person and the scammer will use the illusion of a romantic or trusting relationship to manipulate or steal from the victim.”

Signs that the person you are talking to online is a catfish are:

-Refusing a video call
-Will not meet in person
-Asks for money or items of value
-They are posing as celebrity or very wealthy person

The bottom line is to never share money, gifts or personal information to someone you have never met in person.

Scam #5: Amazon Scam

Recently, Amazon sent out an email to all of its consumers warning them about two types of popular scams that are rampant right now. The first is the Prime Membership Scam. In this situation, the scammer will contact a victim by a call, text or email requesting a membership fee or allege an issue with membership. The goal is to get payment information from the victim that the scammer then uses to steal money. In their recent email, Amazon said, “Amazon will never ask you to provide payment information for products or services over the phone.”

The second popular scam is the Account Suspension/Deletion scam. The scammer contacts the victim with a claim that their account will be suspended or deleted and prompt them to use a fraudulent link or verbally confirm account credentials or payment information. Similar to the IRS, Amazon will never ask for sensitive information over the phone, by email or by text. Remembering this can be the difference between falling victim to fraud and keeping yourself safe from fraud.

If these five scams are not already a great cause for alarm, it is unnerving to think that even shopping for puppies can lead you into becoming a victim. Believe it or not, scammers have even used adorable, fluffy puppies to trick people out of their money. The puppy purchase scam offers puppies for sale on the internet. The victim pays a puppy that does not exist and while waiting for the puppy to be old enough for travel to its new home, the scammer will continue to extort additional money out of the buyer, using excuses such as travel fees and material costs.

At, we want to protect our friends and loved ones with disabilities from scams and scam artists. Awareness about all types of scams is the first step forward to protect yourself from being victimized. By being able to identify scams, these situations can turn from potential dangers to easily avoided obstacles.

About the writer: Tracy Gong is a high school senior living in Washington, DC. She is interested in volunteer work, journalism reporting, and creative writing and has worked for organizations such as the Daily Californian, a UC Berkeley-based independent student-run newspaper, and the nonprofit Help Us Gather. Tracy is extremely passionate about writing and using it to impact her community positively. She likes listening to music, working on her novel, and playing volleyball in her free time.