Criminals targeting seniors from other countries, even under the victim’s roof | #datingscams | #lovescams

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Predators are finding more harassing ways to try and take the money out of the pockets of seniors.

The criminals are in other countries and even under the victim’s roof.

Startling data from the FBI reveals different ways one of the most vulnerable populations is being taken advantage of.

Criminals are using the phone as a tool to reach seniors.

Scrolling through his phone, 69-year-old Mike Butler showed News 3 the excessive number of calls he says he’s getting from scammers.

“They prey on the elderly,” said Butler, “Some of them call you twice a day. It’s like harassment.”

He says his late aunt fell victim to a scammer a few years ago.

The number of victims is concerning.

The FBI’s most recent Elder Fraud report reveals that the number of victims has risen at an alarming rate, while the loss amounts are even more staggering.

They said in 2021, over 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion which represents a 74 percent increase in losses over losses reported in 2020. Across the nation, they say Virginia ranks 7th in total losses.

U.S. Postal Inspector Jason Thomasson, “I think seniors are targeted more than any other age group.”

Thomasson works on a Task Force with the FBI says many seniors have money saved up for retirement and predators know that. He said sometimes they are too trusting toward people who call them.

“They’ve got money laying around and they’re willing to answer the phone to talk to the person on the other line,” said Thomasson.

Even the Former head of the FBI William Webster and his wife spoke to News 3 last May about being harassed after refusing to send money to someone claiming they’d won a sweepstake.

“He (scammer) threatened to kill me, kill my husband, burn our house down. He said he knew we lived in a white brick house and that my brains would look just lovely spewed across the bricks,” said Lynda Webster.

That man is in prison now but many criminals are never caught. Tech Support Fraud, Romance Scams, and government impersonations top the list as ways they’re getting money for vulnerable people.

Thomasson said they see scammers calling elderly victims pretending to be their grandchild or another relative, saying they’ve gotten in trouble with the law.

They ask the victim to send bail money or cash for lawyer fees and ask them not to tell the family.

Our News 3 Investigation also revealed another problem of theft from seniors happening under their own roof.

In three recent separate cases in Norfolk seniors were victimized – not by strangers – but rather someone close to them.

All the victims are women are in their 80s with thousands of dollars missing. Court records state that one woman said she thought her granddaughter stole her money, the other had severe memory loss, and the third believed she was “cleaned out” by her healthcare worker.

Police tell me no one has been arrested in any of the cases.

Thomasson says these kinds of cases can be harder to come to light.

“Whether it’s a family member or a health homecare worker those are a little harder to find in those (cases) you rely on somebody to report to us before we can find out about it,” said Thomasson.

Regardless of whether the predator is under the victim’s roof or calling from another country, it’s happening too often.

“It makes you angry when you see that they’re being taken advantage of like that,” said Thomasson.

“Predators trying to make a hustle that’s all it is,” said Butler.

Information from the FBI: If you believe you are a victim of fraud or know a senior who may be—regardless of financial loss—and you are not under imminent threat, report the fraud to FBI’s DOJ provides an Elder Fraud Hotline to help with resources and with filing complaints to the IC3. 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).

Common Elder Fraud Schemes

  • Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
  • Tech support scam: Criminals pose as technical support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims’ devices and sensitive information.
  • 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 provide funds or other payments.
  • Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims’ trust. Or they claim their targets have 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 that they never provide.
  • TV/radio scam: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
  • Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.

How to protect yourself: 

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information (name, email, phone number, and addresses) 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 the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

How to report: 

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

When reporting a scam—regardless of dollar amount—include as many of the following details as possible:

  • Names of the scammer and/or company
  • Dates of contact
  • Methods of communication
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  • Methods of payment
  • Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  • Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given
  • You are also encouraged to keep original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.

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