FBI highlights growing number of reported elder fraud cases

EL PASO In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the FBI wants to remind friends, family, and loved ones of elderly Americans to know the signs of elder fraud. While elder abuse can be perpetuated in any number of ways, the FBI has seen a double digit increase in financial fraud involving older adults, prompting efforts from the bureau to bring public awareness to this type of crime.

According to the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data, there have already been $1.6 billion in losses from January to May of 2024, up nearly $300 million from the same time period last year. In 2023, a total of $3.4 billion losses were reported, and elder fraud complaints increased by 14% from the year prior. In Texas, total losses in 2023 were $278,320,107.

“Empowering our seniors and their friends and family with education surrounding elder fraud schemes is critical to protecting them and their hard-earned money,” Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division said in a news release. “Unfortunately, elder fraud remains one of the most devastating violations we work in the FBI. The effects of these elaborate schemes go far beyond just financial losses. It robs an already vulnerable population of their sense of security. We all need to work together to make sure our seniors, their caregivers, families and friends know the signs to look for that a criminal is after your money.”

“Elder Fraud is labelled as the crime of the 21st century because we are seeing elderly individuals retiring with significant assets making them the most attractive target for criminal elements seeking to steal money from trusting individuals,” Special Agent in Charge John Morales of the FBI El Paso Field Office said in the release. “It is our mission to prevent our elderly citizens from becoming victims and becoming deprived of vital financial resources needed to cover basic living expenses.”

Criminal actors frequently target older adults, who they perceive to be more vulnerable and trusting. Criminal actors may also assume older adults have considerable financial savings, own real estate, have good credit, and are less likely to report fraud, especially if they feel ashamed following the fraud victimization or are unfamiliar with reporting channels such as IC3.gov.

Among the most common elder fraud schemes reported to IC3.gov in 2023 were tech support scams, confidence and romance scams, investment scams, and government impersonation scams. From 2021 to 2023, elder adult victim and dollar losses to investment scams has sharply increased; victimization and losses increased 209% and 419%, respectively, more than any other kind of fraud, largely because of the rising use of cryptocurrency.

While fraud can happen to anyone, small steps can be taken to protect yourself and your information:

  • Search online for the contact information (name, phone number, email, addresses) of any unknown source which reaches out to you, as well as the proposed offer. Verify the legitimacy of businesses on websites such as Better Business Bureau. Other people have likely posted information online about businesses and individuals attempting to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to lure victims into immediate action, typically by instilling trust and inducing empathy or fear, or the promise of monetary gains, companionship, or employment opportunities.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Never give or send to unverified people or businesses any personally-identifiable information, money, checks, gift cards, or wire information.
  • Take precautionary measures to protect your identity should a criminal gain access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts and monitor for suspicious activity.

Combatting elder fraud continues to be a priority for the Department of Justice, which operates the Elder Justice Initiative. The Elder Justice Initiative supports and coordinates the DOJ’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact FBI El Paso at (915) 832-5000 or submit a complaint on IC3.gov. You should document the name of the scammer/company and methods of contact, dates of contact, methods of payment, where funds may have been sent, and a thorough description of the interactions.