The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice have released the results of a year-long enforcement effort targeting individuals and entities who capitalize financially by exploiting elderly victims. According to the announcement made at a recent conference by Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, and Former FBI Director William Webster, who himself was a target of elder fraud, coordinated law enforcement efforts over the past year were a marked success. The data speaks for itself:
- Over 260 defendants were prosecuted for federal crimes involving fraud against seniors;
- Fraudulent schemes implicated in the sweep victimized more than 2 million Americans in total, most of whom were elderly; and
- Victims suffered estimated losses in excess of $700 million.
The latest federal elder fraud takedown surpassed the numbers of defendants, losses, and victims in the previous year, which was the first targeted federal law enforcement takedown to arise from the passing of the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act in 2017. That law, among other things, created enhanced penalties for telemarketing scams which victimize people over the age of 55.
During the DOJ press conference announcing the FBI’s results, former FBI Director William Webster, now 95, spoke to the importance of protecting seniors from unscrupulous fraudsters. His support was a major catalyst for the capture of the defendant who personally targeted Webster and his wife with a Jamaican lottery scam promising riches on the condition that victims first make payments to move the process forward. The Websters didn’t suffer actual losses, like many unfortunate seniors do, but they did receive persistent calls and threatening demands.
The Elder Fraud Problem
Deceit and deception are by no means new tactics for those with the intent to profit from others, nor is targeting the vulnerable for personal financial gain. The sheer scope of elder financial fraud has grown immensely in recent years, as has the exorbitant amounts of money stolen from elderly individuals.
Today, seniors have become one of the largest targets for a variety of scams, as many have accumulated assets and sizable “nest eggs” which make them attractive potential victims to those with ill-intent. Older Americans who grew up in a different era may also be more likely to be trusting and polite, and less likely to understand complex technical, financial, or computer-related matters – characteristics heavily exploited by criminals in a variety of scams.
Types of Elder Fraud
Common types of elder fraud identified by the DOJ and other advocacy groups include:
- Telemarketing fraud (free trials, advance loans, etc.)
- Misrepresentation / imposter scams (i.e. as bank officials, IRS agents, etc.)
- Charity frauds and fake accident scams seeking financial support
- Internet and computer support scams (i.e. phishing and hacking)
- Fraudulent products, often promising medical or cognitive cures
- Lottery and fake prize scams, often with winnings accessible by having to pay “fees”
- Investment frauds which promise low risks and high returns
It’s important to mention that not all cases of investment fraud are solely “scams” perpetrated in foreign countries or by savvy criminals. Some forms of elder fraud involve legitimate advisors and brokers who breach their financial duties and take advantage of senior clients by committing any number of investment products and forms of misconduct, such as misrepresentation, unauthorized trading, excessive activity, and more.
Did You Suffer Financial Losses? Call (800) 738-1960
At Meyer Wilson, our nationally recognized investment fraud and misconduct attorneys have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in financial losses for clients across the country. While these losses have involved all types of fraudulent schemes, misconduct, and failures to meet legal duties, many of our past clients are elderly victims who suffer tremendous blows to their financial and emotional well-being at vulnerable times in their lives. It’s our mission to help wronged investors navigate the channels most appropriate for them to recover what they’ve lost.
If you have questions about elder fraud or any financial losses involving investment fraud, misconduct, or scams, our attorneys are available to help. Call (800) 738-1960 or contact us online to discuss your rights and options.