What is Elder Fraud?
Seniors are increasingly targeted by scammers looking for financial gain. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2022, victims 60 and older reported losing $3.1 billion to fraud, an 84% increase over 2021. The average loss per victim was $35,101, with 5,456 victims losing more than $100,000.
Perpetrators attempt to gain access to funds or property through a variety of methods:
- Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative – usually a child or grandchild – claiming to be in immediate financial need
- Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites
- Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues
- Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to pay
- Utility or gift card scam: Criminals pose as utility company representatives and require the victim to stay on the phone with them while they purchase gift cards and provide redemption numbers over the phone
- Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for a charitable organization to gain victims’ trust, or claim the victim has won a foreign lottery or sweepstake, which they can collect for a “fee”
- Home repair scam: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvement services they never provide
- TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using advertisements about services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair
- Family/caregiver scam: Perpetrators are relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims and take advantage of them or otherwise get their money
- Investment scam: Criminals offer unsuitable investments, fraudulent offerings, and unrecognized products which can result in the theft or misappropriation of funds
Prevent Elder Fraud
Protect yourself and loved ones by staying aware and alert:
- Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
- Search online for the contact information and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call 911 if you or a loved one are threatened.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
- Never provide any personally identifiable information or wire money to unknown or unverified persons or businesses.
- Ensure all computer anti-virus and security software are up to date.
- If you receive a suspicious pop-up or locked screen on your device, immediately disconnect from the internet and turn off the device.
- Do not open any emails or click on attachments you do not recognize.
- If victimized, take precautions to protect your identity such as immediately contacting your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.
Report Elder Fraud
According to the FBI’s 2020 Elder Fraud Report, more than 369,000 incidents of elder fraud resulted in the loss of $4.8 billion dollars. Less than 5% of elder fraud incidents are reported and an estimated 8.6 million cases are projected to have a total loss of more than $113 billion; California has the largest estimated loss at $10.8 billion. With more scams reported, law enforcement will have access to more tips and trends, and prosecutors can pursue stronger punishments against convicted criminals.
- Contact your local law enforcement agency (police or sheriff)
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov
When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—be as descriptive as possible (who, what, when, where, how).
- Watch FBI 3-minute Video: Learn how the 95-year old former Director of the FBI foiled a Jamaican lottery scam.
- CBS 60 Minutes shared what it sounds like to be targeted by a grandparent scam.
Host an Elder Fraud Information Session
In partnership with the FBI San Diego Elder Justice Task Force, the FBI San Diego Citizens Academy Alumni Association and the San Diego Seniors Community Foundation’s Senior Center Coalition are pleased to host a series of 1-hour elder fraud information sessions for seniors, caregivers, and neighbors. More than 400 seniors attended the first series of six presentations in September 2023. Planning is underway for more sessions in 2024. Please complete an interest form to be considered to host an upcoming presentation.
Registration is open for confirmed presentations.
- TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20 AT 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center (4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037)
- WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6 AT 5 p.m. at City of Vista Senior Center (1400 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista, CA 92084)
- FRIDAY, MARCH 29 AT 12:30 p.m. at City of La Mesa (8450 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942)
Links and Resources
- FBI & FBISDCAAA large print Elder Fraud brochure
- FBI Older Adult Financial Exploitation Brochure
- FBI Romance Scam Video and Resources
- FBI Warns of “Phantom Hacker” Scam
- Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative YouTube Channel and webpage
- FBI News: Task force in San Diego shows how collaboration is a key tool in fight against scammers
- San Diego District Attorney: Stop Scams Toolkit and Resources
- San Diego Police Department: Elder Scams and Prevention Brochure
- InfraGard’s Elder Justice Initiative: Keeping Seniors Safe
- AARP’s podcast The Perfect Scam
- Join the FBI in Fighting Elder Fraud, The Localist SD
- FBI PSA “Phantom Hacker“