Former FBI Director Airs Warning About Elder Fraud
Public service announcement reminds seniors and their loved ones to be vigilant
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” warns former FBI and CIA Director William Webster in a video message that urges older people and their loved ones to be wary of elder fraud schemes.
The 98-year-old retired judge and his wife Lynda were prospective marks in a Jamaican lottery scam in 2014 when an unsolicited caller informed Webster he won a sweepstakes. To collect his winnings—a car and millions of dollars—Webster was told he needed to pay $50,000. When the couple declined repeatedly, the caller became abusive and threatening. The Websters called the FBI and later worked with special agents in the Washington Field Office to nab the scammer, who is now serving time in prison.
The Websters are among millions of older Americans targeted each year in elder fraud schemes like bogus lottery and romance scams. Fraudsters string along victims with promises of love or riches in exchange for cash advances or assistance moving illegal funds. Losses from these types of scams reach into the hundreds of millions each year and are increasing as the U.S. population ages.
The Websters’ case was featured on fbi.gov in 2019 and garnered national attention. The couple hopes the new public service announcement (PSA) will remind older people, their families, and caregivers that they need to maintain their guard against sophisticated schemes.
“Since we have become involved with this issue, we’ve heard sad stories of millions of dollars stolen, lives threatened, and even suicides,” Lynda Webster said. “My husband has been targeted for years. And when one scammer threatened our lives we knew we had to act.”
The PSA includes archival images of Webster as a Navy officer in World War II and Korea and later as a federal judge and head of the country’s premier intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The scammer who targeted the Websters didn’t know this background, just that Judge Webster was older and might therefore be susceptible to cons that prey on traits like trustworthiness, loneliness, and a yearning for more financial security.
In 2019, Director Webster discussed the Jamaican lottery scheme that targeted him and his wife Lynda. The couple worked with the FBI to capture the caller, who was arrested and sentenced to prison. Learn more
“Scammers will spend many hours and days talking to their targets, getting to know them, offering friendship and even the promise of love,” Lynda Webster said. “They are skillful con artists, and family members and close friends should be aware.”
Lynda Webster paid close attention to the scammer’s phone calls to her husband, who invited her to listen in. In many cases, scam victims won’t divulge they were victimized because they are too embarrassed or don't know where to turn. Lynda Webster was particularly vigilant because her own father was victimized in an investment scheme that cost the family a small fortune.
“It’s in every family’s interest to stay vigilant,” Lynda Webster said. “As loved ones, we must be lovingly watchful of the well-being of the elderly in myriad ways. As seniors’ mental acuity declines, their judgement erodes, and it’s the family’s responsibility to protect them from the people who will prey upon them.”
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3.
“Scammers will spend many hours and days talking to their targets. They are skillful con artists, and family members and close friends should be aware.”
- Lynda Webster