HOUSTON, TX—“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” warns former FBI and CIA Director William Webster in a video message that urges older people and their loved ones to be wary of elder fraud schemes. In 2021, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This represents a 74 percent increase in losses over losses reported in 2020.
View Director Webster’s Public Service Announcement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNlPQvdRf1E
Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme, including romance, lottery, and sweepstakes scams, to name a few. Criminals will gain their targets’ trust and may communicate with them directly via computer, phone, and the mail, or indirectly through the TV and radio. Once successful, scammers are likely to keep a scheme going because of the prospect of significant financial gain.
Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.
Additionally, seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed of having been scammed. They might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.
- Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to you or a loved one.
- Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
- Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date.
- Disconnect from the Internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
- Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
- If a criminal gains access to your device or account, immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts. Monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
How to Report
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact FBI Houston at 713-693-5000 or submit a tip online at www.tips.fbi.gov. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—include as many of the following details as possible:
- Names of the scammer and/or company
- Dates of contact
- Methods of communication
- Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
- Methods of payment
- Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
- Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given
You are also encouraged to keep original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.
More information can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/elder-fraud.
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