The use of technology—including cell phones, emails and social media—has dramatically increased the number of potential victims.
There’s good news and bad news on the elder fraud front. Law enforcement recently conducted the largest sweep of elder fraud cases specifically targeting the elderly, according the article “Law Enforcement Conducts Largest Coordinated Elder Identity Fraud Sweep in History,” appearing in Security Intelligence. The U.S. Department of Justice announced that more than 250 defendants have been charged in the sweep, 200 of whom have been charged criminally.
Some of the identity fraud campaigns included a common grandparent scam where seniors were contacted and informed that their grandchildren had been arrested and needed bail money. Other scams told seniors they’d won the lottery but needed to pay a large fee to get the winnings or that they owed back taxes to the IRS.
The bad news: The Justice Department says that more than 1 million people collectively lost “hundreds of millions of dollars” through these scams.
While some identity fraud is conducted through traditional methods like the telephone, there are other ways of scamming the elderly. For instance, romance scams involve an attacker befriending a senior online and then asking for money to visit the U.S. or some other reason.
The phone-based scams can trap one senior at a time. However, email and other online media steams now let criminals tap into millions of potential victims at once.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017” reported that identity fraud made up 14% of consumer complaints last year. That was second only to debt collection.
The FTC also showed that while scams against the elderly are a concern, younger citizens are equally at risk. Roughly 40% of millennials in their 20s said they lost money to fraud—compared to 18% of those over age 70. Nonetheless, seniors usually suffered higher median losses than other age groups, the report found.
The credit card scam is one of the bigger identity fraud issues (this involves both new and current accounts). Social media, data theft via email, payment account and online shopping schemes are equally prevalent, according to the FTC’s data.
Reference: Security Intelligence (March 27, 2018) “Law Enforcement Conducts Largest Coordinated Elder Identity Fraud Sweep in History”