GREENSBORO, N.C. — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina is promoting the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative throughout the Piedmont Triad area, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin. On May 28, 2019, the Middle District partnered with the FBI and the AARP to conduct outreach and raise awareness to educate older adults about the latest scams so they do not fall victim. More than 4000 seniors in North Carolina dialed in to an interactive telephone town hall to learn about the latest financial scams. A recording of the town hall is available online here.
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.
The DOJ Elder Justice Initiative aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educating older adults on how to identify scams and avoid getting ripped off by scammers; and promoting greater coordination with law enforcement partners.
Some examples of financial fraud targeting seniors discussed during the seminar 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 sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
In March of this year, Attorney General William P. Barr and multiple law enforcement partners, including the FBI, announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. The Department took action in every federal district across the country, through the filing of criminal or civil cases. 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 older adults. As part of the sweep, the Middle District of North Carolina charged, and obtained the guilty plea of, a woman who embezzled around $370,000 from an older person for whom she was a caretaker, using the money to pay for spa treatments, travel, college tuition, dining, and expensive shopping sprees. She will be sentenced in July 2019.
In another matter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Chut secured the conviction of a woman who obtained credit card numbers and personal information from older residents of Davidson County, by calling victims and pretending to be calling from a hospital or pharmacy. The defendant was sentenced to fourteen months imprisonment, and was ordered to pay restitution to her victims for the more than $69,000 that she obtained through her scheme.
Attacking exploitation and fighting fraud are two priorities of the Middle District, and the U.S. Attorney’s office is committed to aggressively pursuing individuals who engage in such acts.
Elder abuse includes physical abuse, caregiver neglect, financial exploitation, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and abandonment. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. You can also contact the Victim Connect Hotline between 9am-6pm, Monday through Friday, at: 1- 855-4VICTIM (1-855-4842846), or email the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina at USANCM.CivilRights@usdoj.gov.
For more information about the Elder Justice Initiative, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.