FBI Dallas
Public Affairs Officers Melinda Urbina and Katie Chaumont
(972) 559-5629 / (972) 559-5699
June 14, 2024

FBI Dallas Raises Public Awareness About Elder Fraud, Exposes Common Scams, and Shares Tactics to Avoid Losing Your Savings

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, the Dallas FBI is raising public awareness about scams and schemes targeting the elder demographic to decrease financial exploitation of adults over the age of 60. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) 2023 Elder Fraud Report was released in April 2024. This annual publication provides comprehensive statistics about reported incidents of fraud that explicitly target older Americans’ money or cryptocurrency:

  • Elder fraud complaints to the IC3 increased by 14% in 2023;
  • And associated reported losses totaled over $3.4 billion, an increase of about 11% from 2022.
    • On average, victims lost $33,915.
  • The state of Texas ranks third for the number of complaints filed by individuals;
  • And over 7,000 people from Texas filed complaints with the FBI in 2023, with a total dollar loss of $278.3 million.

The 60+ population are attractive targets to fraudsters because they have financial stability and expensive assets, like home ownership, but also because this group is perceived as less likely to report being a victim of a financial crime. In fact, many of these crimes likely go unreported and only about half of the fraud scam complaints submitted to IC3 in 2023 included victims’ ages.

As the number of Americans over 60 grows quickly, by sheer volume, the elder population is a target-rich environment comprised of multiple subsets of vulnerabilities: those that are less-experienced with computers/mobile devices or online banking; those that don’t use two- or multi-factor authentication to protect personal identifiable information (PII) containing apps; those that are seeking friendships or romantic companionship; and those that are simply swindled, by increasingly sophisticated fraudsters and their techniques.

Tech support scams were the most widely reported kind of elder fraud in 2023. Nearly 18,000 victims aged 60 and over reported such scams to IC3. Personal data breaches, confidence and romance scams, non-payment or non-delivery scams, and investment scams rounded out the top five most common types of elder fraud reported to IC3 last year.

Power in Numbers: Anatomy of a Tech Support Scam

As part of an ongoing assessment, FBI Dallas believes it has connected more than 30 related IC3 complaints within a six-month timeframe, with collective loss amounts in the millions of dollars. Researching reports with similar subject names and phone numbers revealed a formulaic pattern of contact and behavior with unsuspecting victims.

  1. The victim computer screen freezes, emits a loud beeping, and displays a pop-up window informing the user that the computer has been hacked, and includes instructions to call an (illegitimate) tech support number.
  2. When contact is made with tech support, the victim is informed their computer has been frozen due to the download of child sex abuse material (CSAM) or the purchase of illegal weapons—which the victim denies. The victim is then transferred to a faux fraud investigator.
  3. The fraud investigator purports to be a representative from the victim’s financial institution. They explain they can see charges for CSAM or illegal weapons on the account, and in order to protect their funds, they need to liquidate their account and transfer the proceeds to a bitcoin wallet that is provided by the illicit investigator. They are cautioned against speaking to any financial institution employees about the transactions.
  4. Further, the story is stretched with the sinister intent to steal additional assets by explaining that the hacker who purchased the illegal materials is confirmed to have access to all of the victim’s financial accounts, including investments and IRAs, so all funds should be transferred to the provided bitcoin wallet, wired to an account provided by the subject or even converted into gold bars, and placed into a secure locker facility controlled by the subject.
  5. The victim is assured that all funds will be returned after the investigation has concluded and the charges are removed.
  6. Contact typically occurs over multiple days, with multiple transactions, and little hope to legitimately recover funds by the time the fraud is realized.

Protect Yourself and Others

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Be suspicious. Search online to attempt to verify contact information (name, email, phone number, addresses) or business offerings. Take note if others have cautioned that an individual may be a scammer.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. 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 services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to someone you don’t personally know.
  • Make sure all computer antivirus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable antivirus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Employ pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • 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.
  • Consult with a family member or trusted friend when in doubt.

How to Report

The FBI is committed to protecting older Americans. If you believe you are a victim of fraud or know an older American who may be—regardless of monetary loss—immediately report the incident to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or by submitting a tip to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Your report to law enforcement may prevent others from becoming victimized.

Additional Resources