FBI El Paso warns of scammers trying to take advantage of the elderly | #scams | #elderlyscams
Scammers are targeting the elderly as they remain a vulnerable population to fall victim to fraud, FBI El Paso officials warned.
FBI El Paso Special Agent Jeffrey Reisinger said elder fraud differs from most fraud schemes because it targets a specific group of vulnerable community members.
“When we talk about elder fraud, what we’re talking about is financial fraud schemes that target a disproportionately affected group from age 60 and above,” Reisinger said. “These schemes are kind of scary because everybody that’s a possible victim is anyone who’s going to be turning 60 or above, and one of the other concerns that we have is that many of us know people that are 60 or above such as grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles.”
As more people turn 60, the number of potential victims grows larger and larger, Reisinger said.
“A very strong point here is that in the next 20 to 30 years, those that are going to be retiring are going to be retiring with a lot of money,” Reisinger said. “The baby boomer generation and the generation behind it is going to be retiring with about $10 trillion as the 21st century rolls on. That is a lot of money out there for scammers to want to get their hands on and they’re well aware of that.”
The most common elder frauds include romance scam, tech scams, home repair scams,
sweepstakes and lottery ticket scams, caregiver scams and scams that include a fraudster calling to say they are able to diagnose a problem with somebody’s computer, Reisinger said.
“Unfortunately, people that are 60 and above and although they’ve used the internet for probably the last 20 years, they may not be as adept at understanding issues or concerns with their internet,” Reisinger said. “They actually may believe some of these scams and what that does is it gives somebody access into their computer. They get into their vital systems and at that point they’re able to go ahead and get personal information.”
Another common scam targeting the elderly are “grandparent” or “grandchild” scams.
“This where somebody calls or messages an individual claiming to be a grandchild or relative of that elderly individual, and tries to get money out of them that way by saying ‘Help, I am stuck here. I need you to send money,'” Reisinger said. “Unfortunately, the person usually believes it and ends up sending either a wire or some sort of money in the form of gift cards.”
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Government impersonation scams, where a fraudster will pretend to be from a government entity or law enforcement agency, is also a common trick scammer will use against elderly people.
“This is another one where somebody is calling via telephone or maybe even coming door to door, impersonating somebody who works for the government possibly stating that they’re from the IRS or they work for social security,” Reisinger said. “They (scammers) state that there have been issues that they have found with the individual’s account and they need to speak with them, and they want them to verify certain material.”
Statistics on the number of scams being reported in El Paso were not immediately available. Nationwide, scammers targeting elderly people stole more than $835 million based upon more than 68,000 reported complaints in 2019.
In 2020, scammers took $966 million with more than 105,000 reported complaints, Reisinger said.
“Of those individuals we are able to prosecute, there was a 54% increase in elder fraud,” Reisinger said. “So this is something on the rise and something that we need to be aware of.”
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The number of victims is likely higher than the numbers of cases the FBI investigates because many of the victims are too embarrassed to report that they have been scammed, Reisinger said.
“A lot of individuals especially in the elder community feel ashamed and don’t want to report when they’ve been a victim,” Reisinger said. “This is because one of the things they feel is that if their family members were to find out they were a victim, they may think that their family members might think that they are not able to control their own affairs when it comes to their money and they want to control that themselves.”
He continued, “If you feel you’re a victim, don’t be ashamed of it. We understand these are professional scam artists and it happens to a lot of people in a lot of different ways that are a lot of different ages.”
People who believe they are victims of scammers are asked to report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call the FBI El Paso Division at 915-832-5000.
For more information on phone and online scams, visit FBI.gov.
Aaron Martinez may be reached at 915-546-6249; firstname.lastname@example.org; @AMartinezEPT on Twitter.