The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced hundreds of indictments against individuals engaged in often elaborate schemes to defraud hundreds of thousands of elders across the country. The Justice Department said in a statement that it levied charges against over 250 defendants for their roles that contributed to an estimated $500 million in total financial damages against victims.
“Today’s actions send a clear message: We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in announcing the charges at a press conference. The Department of Justice coordinated with dozens of federal and local agencies to make the arrests, including working with Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys generals.
The perpetrators of the scheme allegedly used everything from mass mailing system and telemarketing schemes to identity theft to commit financial crimes against some of the most vulnerable portions of the population. In the past several years, the Senate Aging Committee received thousands of calls from individuals complaining they were either victims or an attempted target of some type of elder fraud.
Sadly, over one million elders across the nation have been made the victim of some sort of financial crime by scammers. Many were told they were the winners of some sort of prize and needed to fill out “registration forms” containing personal information like driver’s license and Social Security numbers to claim their winnings. Scammers would then use the information to create false identities and unjustly enrich themselves.
Hundreds of thousands of other elders were defrauded when telemarketers posing as tech support workers called to sell useless IT services that could also result in serious cases of identity theft. Others were called by individuals posing as IRS agents demanding immediate payments for back taxes or face timely arrest and imprisonment until the debts were paid. Although millions of younger Americans have received similar calls, older Americans are particularly vulnerable to these types of financial attacks for one reason or another.
To help protect families and combate financial crimes against elders, the Federal Trade Commission has created numerous resources to help educate elders and their family members about the most current schemes. The government recommends that elders who may have been contacted by any of these scams immediately inform a family member so the threat can be investigated and reported to authorities if necessary.