What is Elder Fraud?
Seniors are increasingly being targeted by scammers looking for financial gain. Perpetrators attempt to gain access to funds or property through a variety of methods:
- 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
- Grandparent scam: Criminals pose as a relative – usually a child or grandchild – claiming to be in immediate financial need
- Government impersonation scam: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to pay
- 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.
Links and Resources
- FBI Older Adult Financial Exploitation Brochure
- FBI Romance Scam Video and Resources
- Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative YouTube Channel and webpage
- 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