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 at having been scammed. They might also be concerned affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.
With the elderly population growing and seniors racking up more than $3 billion in losses annually, elder fraud is likely to be a growing problem.
Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information. Scammers claiming to be from Microsoft, Amazon, PayPal or Life Alert.
Criminals pose as a relative—usually a child or grandchild—claiming to be in immediate financial need such as in jail or in trouble with law enforcement.
Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
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.”
Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services that they never provide.
Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.