Elder fraud, also known as elder abuse, is a crime that is on the rise, with 2021 losses increasing by 74% over 2021 to $1.7 Billion, according to the IC3 Elder Fraud report. The impact of elder fraud can be devastating to a victim. Oftentimes, the scammer uses a ploy that involves urgency and creates fear of legal consequences if the victim doesn’t provide personal information or money to resolve fictitious situations. Other times, criminals prey on the loneliness of the elderly victim to begin a romance scam that results in leaving the elderly victim stripped of their life savings.
IC3 Cybercrime Typologies targeting >60
Last year alone, over 92,000 cases were reported to the FBI. The average loss for each victim amounted to a whopping $18,246, but over 3,000 elderly victims lost more than $100,000 to fraudsters. For the majority of elderly citizens who live on a fixed income, losses at this level can be devastating.
Data from IC3 on Elder Fraud Reporting
Because most elderly people did not grow up in a technology-centric environment, the lack of familiarity with technology can make them especially vulnerable to cybercriminals. For example, our grandparents were never trained to be “cybersmart” because they grew up in an era without an emphasis on personal computers, smartphones and sharing information online, either personally or in many cases, even in their professions.
During my time as a victim advocacy intern for my local police department, I worked an elder fraud case where the victim was contacted by a scammer claiming to be an FBI agent who was assigned to her “case.” He claimed that her bank contacted the FBI because her bank account information was stolen and that he needed her to transfer her funds for safekeeping until her case was resolved. Understandably scared for her life’s savings, as well as money collected from her husband’s life insurance, she agreed to transfer her money to the criminal. After transferring $210,000 in several payments to the scammers through a Bitcoin ATM, she tried to call to check on the investigation, but was met with a deactivated phone line. After realizing what had happened, she called the local police department to report the scam with hopes of getting her money back and prosecuting the scammer. Sadly, by the time she realized what had happened and law enforcement became involved the money was long gone. Witnessing the tragedy of this victim losing her life’s savings and realizing that she now had no resources with which to pay her mortgage was something I will never forget, and has led to my passion around helping educate our elderly citizens against this type of crime.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has some excellent resources for older adults on how they can protect their bank account and assets.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers many resources on how people can identify scams. They also have fraud specialists who can assist those who have been victims.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) offers data, resources and a reporting portal for victims.