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Criminal schemes targeting U.S. seniors account for $3.4 billion in reported losses, FBI says

Elder fraud on the rise in the U.S.
Elder fraud on the rise in the U.S. 02:07

Washington — Americans over 60 years of age fell victim to so-called elder fraud crimes more frequently last year than during any other year and accounted for an estimated $3.4 billion in total reported losses, according to a newly released FBI report. 

Reports of criminal schemes targeting seniors in the U.S. increased by 14% between 2022 and 2023, federal investigators said, warning that investment scams in which victims are enticed into transferring money to fraudulent financial institutions are the costliest to the elderly. In all, over 101,000 complaints of fraud perpetrated against individuals over 60 years of age were filed to federal law enforcement last year, the most of any age group throughout the country. 

FBI officials said Tuesday the new numbers were "astonishing" and warned that as Americans witness one of the "greatest transfers of generational wealth," the nation's senior citizens are the most vulnerable.  

There were 5,920 individuals over 60 who lost more than $100,000 as a result of criminal fraud and federal trends last year, demonstrating that seniors are increasingly being targeted and falling victim, the report said. In many cases, victims are coerced into authorizing payments to the criminal scammers, draining their bank accounts under false pretenses. 

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, FBI officials urged American financial institutions to do more to help elderly victims from following through on those money transfers. 

"We need financial institutions to step up and put in precautions…to help their customers to stop being victims of crime," the officials said. 

The officials said Tuesday they hoped the new report will both shine a light on fraud schemes and prevent future victims from falling prey to illegal scammers. Education and "tough conversations" with America's senior populations will be key to these prevention efforts, they said, highlighting that the earlier fraud crimes are reported, the better chance law enforcement has at preventing money transfers and stopping criminals before they complete their schemes. 

A majority of elder fraud scams go unreported to law enforcement by the victims, which officials have said makes it difficult to quantify the total impact of the crimes nationwide. AARP estimated in a 2023 study that $28.3 billion is lost to elder fraud scams each year, 72% of which is taken by individuals who are known to the victims. 

On Friday, a California man was arrested after investigators said he was allegedly trying to pick up $35,000 from two seniors who had previously fallen victim to his elder fraud scheme, which involved phishing attacks and two individuals who pretended to be federal agents. 

Investigators said Tai Su was just one component of a large criminal enterprise that disguised itself as a Microsoft support system and a financial institution. The hackers would first gain access to the victims' computers through phishing scams and then would convince the seniors to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts. 

Su now faces federal charges and made an initial appearance in court on Monday.. 

According to the FBI's report released on Tuesday, tech support scams remain the most common form of elder fraud crime. But victims are not just being targeted via technical avenues. According to the FBI, romance scams and those involving individuals posing as family members are also on the rise. 

In 2023, law enforcement received over 6,700 reports of romance scams targeting individuals over the age of 60, costing victims nearly $357 million. 

A federal indictment unsealed Monday in New Jersey charged 16 individuals tied to a so-called "grandparent scam" in which the alleged fraudsters operated call centers in the Dominican Republic to victimize hundreds of Americans by posing as grandchildren asking for money. 

Investigators said Tuesday they've seen a shift in volume from scammers operating inside the U.S. to international criminal organizations, including those located in India, Laos and Cambodia. 

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