In light of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is June 15, the FBI Phoenix Field Office is raising awareness about cyber scams targeting the elderly in Arizona.
Elder fraud takes many shapes and sizes as criminal elements seek to take advantage of this vulnerable and growing population. In 2017, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act was passed and the Department of Justice announced the Elder Justice Initiative.
The mission of the initiative is to support and coordinate the DOJ’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target the nation’s seniors.
As such, the FBI has prioritized efforts to address elder fraud and will continue to do so along with its partners.
According to the latest FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 report, residents over the age of 60 made up the majority of Arizona cyber-crime victims in 2018 (1,700) and accounted for the most adjusted losses (almost $12.5 million).
The Top 5 crimes by victim (ages 60+) count for Fiscal Year 2018, according to IC3, are:
Extortion: 302 victims totaling $190,034.73
Personal Data Breach: 254 victims totaling $442,628.73
Non-Payment/Non-Delivery: 251 victims totaling $1,040,540.91
Tech Support: 221 victims totaling $1,226,694.23
Virtual Currency: 220 victims totaling $662,398.40
The Top 5 Arizona crimes by financial loss (ages 60+), are:
Confidence Fraud/Romance: 128 victims totaling $3,210,738.42
Real Estate/Rental: 55 victims totaling $1,732,043.67
BEC/EAC: 73 victims totaling $1,625,530.07
Advanced Fee: 149 victims totaling $1,621,343.07
Social Media: 199 victims totatling $1,525,207.25
Statistics are from the 2018 Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report for ages 60+, crime type definitions can be found on pages 25-27 of the IC3 report.
While anyone — young or old — can fall victim to these scams, seniors with cognitive impairment, health issues, or other concerns are at higher risk. Add that to the fact that many seniors have a set amount of money in retirement — with little ability to recover financially should fraud occur — and the results can be devastating.
If you are an older American — or a caregiver — here are some things you can do to protect you and your family:
Contact an attorney before signing any legal document.
Check financial statements every month for unusual activity.
Avoid unsolicited contacts—whether by phone, e-mail, at your door, or in-person while you are out and about. It is OK to hang up the phone, delete the e-mail, or tell someone you are not interested and walk away.
Be wary when someone asks you to form a company in order to open up a new bank account.
Never give your financial details or personal information to someone you don’t know and trust, especially if you met them online.
Be suspicious when the individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
Be careful of IRS imposter/Sweepstakes scams where the fraudsters tell you that you won the lottery/sweepstakes and you have to pay taxes before you collect your winnings. This is a scam!
Remember, a legitimate company will not ask you to use your own bank account to transfer their money. Do not accept any job offers that ask you to do this.
The government will never request money or personal information from you over the phone.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud, or know a senior who may be, regardless of financial loss, immediately report the incident to your local law enforcement agency and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or call your local FBI office.
Editor's Note: Information from the FBI Phoenix Field Division Office.