Justice Department Implements New Measures Against Elder Fraud and Abuse
It’s no secret that our world evolves quickly. With new technologies emerging seemingly every day, keeping up with the latest can be difficult for people of all ages. But this is especially true for seniors!
These constant changes don’t just slow you down when communicating with friends and families—they can also make you more susceptible to elder fraud and abuse. That’s why, this October, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced their increased efforts in fighting criminals who specifically target seniors for financial fraud schemes.
What’s the problem?
Elder fraud and abuse are unfortunately not new problems, but the situation worsened significantly during the COVID pandemic. (We looked at fraud schemes in the past here and here.) According to a report by the AARP, elder fraud has more than doubled since March 2020.
These attacks most often take the form of cybercrime and financial fraud. A criminal may call or email you, claiming to be a relative or friend in need of cash. Or they may pretend to be someone from technical support, act like an investor offering you an amazing financial opportunity or even pretend to be someone you know.
“Confidence frauds,” which play on the emotions of the victims by pretending to be a grandchild, romantic interest, or other attachment, are the costliest for seniors. The AARP reports staggering losses of $432 million for victims over the age of 60 in 2021, a 54% increase from 2020.
How is the DOJ addressing elder fraud and abuse?
While these numbers are disheartening, and even a little frightening, the good news is that the Justice Department is taking the issue of elder fraud and abuse very seriously. Here are just a few of the improvements they’re making.
1. Elder Fraud Strike Force
The DOJ recently announced the addition of 14 U.S. Attorney’s Offices to the DOJ’s Transactional Elder Fraud Strike Force. This grew the Strike Force from 6 to 20 offices—a game-changing increase!
The federal government is allocating even more resources to fight elder fraud and abuse, with members of the Strike Force including the Consumer Protection Branch, the FBI, Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. These organizations are all working together to keep you safe!
2. Victim Compensation
The DOJ also has a goal of returning money to the victims of elder fraud. The agency is working with fraud-enabling companies to get victims compensated through deferred prosecution agreements.
3. Prosecution and Sentencing
New laws are changing the way prosecutions and sentencing happen for these crimes. For example, the San Diego Elder Justice Task Force recently prosecuted the first case under the new Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO allows prosecutors to charge each individual member of a scam conspiracy with a crime. Now, those who are convicted are receiving longer prison sentences in a bid to deter others from committing the same crimes.
What should I do if I experience elder fraud and abuse?
The Justice Department is working to protect you. But they also need seniors to do their part. If you’ve been the victim of fraud or attempted fraud, the DOJ needs to know so investigators can track down the perpetrators. Always report a crime or attempted crime as quickly as you can—particularly in the case of international fraud.
If you or someone you know has been subject to elder fraud, call the DOJ’s National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 or 833-372-8311 right away. Callers will receive personalized support seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
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