CONCORD – In connection with a nationwide effort to bring attention to elder fraud scams, United States Attorney Jane E. Young made the following statement today, “It is paramount that we protect our elder adults from scams targeted to steal their hard-earned assets. A critical tool in combatting the scammers is education and available resources for our elder adults to access when they are asked to send money or provide personal information over the phone or via email. Scams to take advantage and exploit our seniors can take many forms, but they share a common theme—to separate seniors from the money and property they have worked their lives to obtain,” said U.S. Attorney Young. Some of the more prevalent schemes are:
- Social Security Administration Imposters – Imposters contact prospective victims by telephone and falsely claim that the victim’s Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it has been involved in a crime. They ask to confirm the victim’s Social Security number, or they may say they need to withdraw money from the victim’s bank and to store it on gift cards or in other unusual ways for “safekeeping.” Victims may be told their accounts will be seized or frozen if they fail to act quickly.
- Romance Scams—Imposters use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to target unsuspecting seniors. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist. Romance Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators. Sometimes, perpetrators of Romance Scams convince victims to serve as money mules, receiving illegal proceeds of crime and forwarding those proceeds to perpetrators. For example, Romance Scam victims often are induced to receive payments and/or goods such as technology equipment procured through fraud and to forward those payments and goods directly or indirectly to perpetrators.
- Tech Support Scams—Fraudsters make telephone calls and claim to be computer technicians associated with a well-known company or they may use internet pop-up messages to warn about non-existent computer problems. The scammers claim they have detected viruses, other malware, or hacking attempts on the victim’s computer. They pretend to be “tech support” and ask that the victim give them remote access to his or her computer. Eventually, they diagnose a non-existent problem and ask the victim to pay large sums of money for unnecessary – or even harmful – services. Tech Support Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules (including legitimate-seeming businesses registered in the U.S.) to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
- Lottery Scams—Fraudulent telemarketers based in foreign countries are calling people in the U.S., telling them that they have won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. The fraudulent telemarketers typically identify themselves as lawyers, customs officials, or lottery representatives, and tell people they have won vacations, cars or thousands — even millions — of dollars. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before they can claim their prizes. Victims pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and receive nothing in return, and often are revictimized until they have no money left. Lottery Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
- IRS Imposter Scams—Scammers aggressively target taxpayers, claiming to be employees of the IRS, but are not. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a wire transfer or stored value card such as a gift card. Victims who refuse to cooperate are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. IRS Imposter Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
Reporting from consumers about fraud and fraud attempts is critical to law enforcements efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting older adults. If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-866 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice Hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professional who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available. More information about the Department’s elder justice efforts can be found on the Department’s Elder Justice website, www.elderjustice.gov.
More information about today’s national announcement regarding the Department’s efforts to combat elder fraud can be found at www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-expands-transnational-elder-fraud-strike-force-protect-older-americans.