June 13, 2024

FBI Highlights Growing Number of Reported Elder Fraud Cases Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

In advance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to remind friends, family, and loved ones of elderly Americans about the signs of elder fraud. While elder abuse can be perpetuated in any number of ways, the FBI has seen a double digit increase in financial fraud involving adults over the age of 60, prompting efforts from the Bureau to bring awareness to these types of crimes. 
According to the FBI’s latest Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data, there have already been $1.6 billion in losses from January to May of 2024, up nearly $300 million from the same period last year. In 2023, a total of $3.4 billion in losses were reported, and elder fraud complaints increased by 14% from the prior year.  Here in the Boston Division, which includes all of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, total reported losses in 2023 were $89,553,975. 

  • 397 victims in Maine lost $7,162,225. 
  • 1,610 victims in Massachusetts lost $63,674,965. 
  • 408 victims in New Hampshire lost $11,339,097. 
  • 274 victims in Rhode Island lost $7,377,688. 

The reported losses are most likely much higher because older Americans are less likely to report fraud due to the fact that they either don’t know how to report it, are embarrassed, or don’t know they have been scammed. 
 “Scam artists are doing everything they can to defraud our seniors out of their hard-earned money, and the FBI is doing everything it can to make sure they don’t succeed,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.  “Educating our aging family members and friends about these elder fraud schemes is critical to protecting them. We need to work together to put these fraudsters out of business for good. If you are being victimized, or know someone who is, please report it to us at ic3.gov.” 
Criminal actors frequently target older adults, who they perceive to be more vulnerable, trusting, and have considerable financial savings. They also assume seniors own real estate, have good credit, and are less likely to report fraud. 
Among the most common elder fraud schemes reported to IC3.gov in 2023 were tech support scams, confidence and romance scams, investment scams, and government impersonation scams. From 2021 to 2023, elder victim and dollar losses to investment scams has sharply increased; victimization and losses increased 209% and 419% respectively, more than any other kind of fraud, largely due to the rising use of cryptocurrency. 
While anyone can become a victim of fraud, there are some steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your loved ones: 

  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, texts, mailings, and door-to-door service offers. 
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to lure victims into immediate action, typically by instilling trust and inducing empathy or fear, or the promise of monetary gains, companionship, or employment opportunities. 
  • Never provide to unverified people or businesses any personally identifiable information, money, checks, or gift cards. 
  • Search online for contact information (name, phone number, email, physical address) of any unknown source that reaches out to you, as well as the proposed offer. Verify the legitimacy of the business and check to see if anyone has posted information online about individuals/businesses attempting to run scams. 
  • Take precautionary measures to protect your identity should a criminal gain access to your account or device. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts and monitor for suspicious activity.  
  • If you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI office or report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. You should include the name of the scammer/company, the dates and methods of contact and payment, where the funds were sent, and a detailed description of the interaction.