Los Angeles, California - This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the FBI Los Angeles Field Office is warning the public about scams targeting the nation’s senior population. While many Americans, including the most vulnerable among us, have been focused on overcoming a global pandemic, cybercriminals have been using the opportunity to profit from our dependence on technology by launching an Internet crime spree. Their tactics include phishing, spoofing, extortion, and various types of web-based fraud.
In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received a total of 791,790 complaints with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. Based on the information provided in the complaints, approximately 28% of the total fraud losses were sustained by victims over the age of 60, resulting in approximately $1 billion in losses to seniors. This represents an increase of approximately $300 million in losses reported in 2020 versus what was reported by victims over 60 in 2019.
The myriad scams seniors often encounter include the including following:
- Romance Scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners through dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
- Tech Support Scam: Criminals pose as tech support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues—gaining remote access to victims’ devices and, thus, their sensitive information.
- Grandparent Scam: Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate dire financial need.
- Government Impersonation Scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
- Sweepstakes/Charity/Lottery Scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee.”
- Home Repair Scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
- TV/Radio Scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
- Family/Caregiver Scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.
Taking appropriate measures can help protect you and your loved ones from falling victim to these perpetual perpetrators.
- Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the scammer.
- Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
- 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 yourself or a loved one.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services officers.
- 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 security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
- 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.
- Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to replace protections on your accounts and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
The FBI strongly encourages anyone who believes they may have been a victim of elder fraud to contact their local FBI field office or submit a tip online. Complaints can also be filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.