The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina and the FBI hosted an informational seminar today in Charlotte, to educate older adults about financial scams and how to prevent becoming victims of fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray.
Scammers are targeting seniors at an alarming rate. Across the country, victims of all ages lost $2.71 billion dollars to fraud in 2018, according to statistics collected by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Victims over the age of 60 account for $649,227,724 of those losses. According to the same statistics, in North Carolina, more than 7,500 people lost more than $137 million dollars.
In March 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the Western District’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid getting ripped off by scammers; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. The announcement coincided with the Justice Department’s largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, which surpassed last year’s nationwide sweep. The cases brought during this sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than two million Americans, most of them elderly.
In addition to enforcement actions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI are also partnering with the AARP in North Carolina to conduct outreach and raise awareness through a series of seminars to educate seniors and prevent victimization. Today’s seminar was held at the Tyvola Senior Center in Charlotte, in partnership with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation. Seminar attendees learned about the latest financial scams targeting older Americans, how to detect potential scams and avoid falling victims, and where to report the fraud.
Examples of financial fraud targeting seniors which were discussed during this morning’s informational session are:
• Lottery phone scams – in which the callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before they can receive lottery winnings.
• Grandparent scams – which convince seniors that their grandchildren are in trouble and need money to make rent, repair a car, or even money for bail.
• Romance scams – which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose.
• IRS imposter scams – which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes.
• Sham business opportunities – which convince victims to invest in lucrative business opportunities or investments.
Below are some tips shared with participants during the seminar on how to avoid falling victim to a financial scam:
• Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know.
• Don’t pay a fee for a prize or lottery winning.
• Don’t click on pop-up ads or messages.
• Delete phishing emails and ignore harassing phone calls.
• Don’t send gift cards, checks, money orders, wire money, or give your bank account information to a stranger.
• Don’t fall for a high-pressure sales pitch or a lucrative business deal.
• If a scammer approaches you, take the time to talk to a friend or family member.
• Keep in mind that if you send money once, you’ll be a target for life.
• Remember, it’s not rude to say, “NO.”
• A good rule of thumb is, if it’s too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the FBI, the AARP, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, and the staff at the Tyvola Senior Center for their assistance in organizing today’s seminar.
For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office Elder Justice Initiative, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/elder-justice-initiative.