Elder fraud, or any type of scam or scheme targeting older citizens, is nothing new. Criminals often prey on the easiest victims, and the same factors that make the older generation so wonderful can also make them more susceptible. New technologies and a steady push to digitize daily life also contribute to a list of ongoing threats that put seniors at risk.
Instances of elder fraud have been steadily rising over the last few years. An examination into the issue, alongside some tips and tactics to spread awareness and spot scams, is needed to understand the scope of the problem.
An Enticing Target
A steady increase in elder fraud cases is a result of current world conditions alongside ongoing attempts from scammers to capitalize on an easy opportunity. Seniors are often the most vulnerable members of the population due to health reasons, social isolation, or simply because they are polite and caring. The pandemic had an amplifying effect on some of these factors, allowing criminals to focus on already isolated individuals for fraud attempts. Older citizens also often have better finances, good credit, and less awareness of the many threats targeting them. All of this combines to make elders an enticing target for threat actors.
The IC3 2020 Elder Fraud Report, released by the FBI in the summer of 2021, highlights just how much of an ongoing issue elder fraud actually is. The report found that fraud victims over the age of 60 lost $1 billion in 2020. Nearly a third of all fraud complaints filed with the FBI were from victims over 60 as well. Of these, the average dollar loss was $9,175, and nearly 2,000 individuals lost over $100,000. The over 60 demographic had the most victims, with that number being 105,301 cases, followed closely by the 50-59 age group, with 85,967 victims reporting nearly $850 million in losses. While these numbers reflect the previous calendar year, all indications point toward continued increases in victim numbers and total losses for 2021.
Help is on the Horizon
The Annual Report to Congress on Department of Justice Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse was just released. This in-depth report highlights the continued effort the DOJ has made to fight elder fraud and to reduce risks for the older generation. These efforts include hundreds of criminal and civil enforcement actions aimed at scammers based overseas and other threat actors specifically exploiting seniors.
According to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, “As this Annual Report demonstrates, the department has marshalled a wide array of tools – enforcement actions, research, public education and outreach, training and victim services – to combat elder abuse and to ensure that our seniors have the support and protections that they deserve.”
Awareness and education are other critical steps that can help to reduce instances of elder fraud and limit the risks for you or a loved one. Many older people don’t realize the constant threats that specifically target them. The isolating effects of the pandemic, combined with seniors already living or spending much of their time alone, can exacerbate the situation. Be sure to check in with older people in your life as often as possible and share any knowledge or resources you have that deal with elder fraud. Not only can this assist an individual who may be in need, but the added human interaction can boost their spirits. Please share the information in this update with others who fall into the target demographic or if you have older family members.
Including an older family member into your identity theft coverage plan is also a recommended action. This will ensure that the proper assistance and restoration team is in place ahead of time to help navigate a fraud situation if and when it occurs. And here are some other good tips to help reduce the risk of identity theft and elder fraud for loved ones and friends.
What to Look For
Identifying and understanding the many elder fraud schemes that exist is an essential step towards limiting risks and losses. If you or a loved one are aged 60 or over, be on the lookout for any of these scams:
- Grandparent scam: A threat actor pretends to be a relative (typically a grandchild or child) and claims to be in dire financial need. This scam employs an emotional tactic intended to induce quick actions and typically comes to the intended victim in the form of a phone call.
- Tech support scam: This is currently one of the most common elder fraud scams. Criminals pretend to be tech support employees to provide assistance for a fake computer or mobile issue. They then can steal personal information or gain remote access to electronic devices. It can occur as a phone call, email, or other electronic communication.
- Romance scam: Another emotionally charged scam that involves criminals pretending to be a romantically interested party. The intent is to defraud rather than connect, and it typically occurs through a dating app/website or social media.
- Government/authority scam: Victims of this scam will receive an alarming phone call or message from a fake government employee or other authority figure demanding that the intended victim sends money under penalty of arrest or other legal action.
These are just a few of the most common elder fraud scams, and other criminal tactics exist or are being developed with seniors in the crosshairs. Check out a more in-depth list from the FBI here.
As mentioned earlier, awareness and education are critical elements in helping identify elder fraud in action and to avoiding it in the first place. Never give out personal information to an untrusted or unsolicited source. Always be cautions if someone attempts to coerce you into quick action through an emotional ploy or other suspect tactics.
If you think you are being targeted for elder fraud or any other form of identity theft, quick action is needed to limit the scope of the problem. Having a restoration plan in place is always recommended and will give you the tools and assistance necessary to navigate the situation properly.
LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.