WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Justice this week issued its Annual Report to Congress on its Activities to Combat Elder Fraud and Abuse. The report summarizes the department’s extensive elder justice efforts from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.
As Attorney General Merrick B. Garland recognized, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated injustices faced by far too many of the most vulnerable among us, including older Americans. Even with the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department achieved noteworthy success in combatting elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation and fraud as detailed in the report.
“While technology has brought the world together in many ways, it has also opened the door to a myriad of fraud schemes that prey upon older adults,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “The department will not hesitate to use all the tools at its disposal to identify and disrupt such schemes, wherever they may originate or occur.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the risk for abuse directed towards seniors who are socially isolated and vulnerable to exploitation,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “As this Annual Report demonstrates, the department has marshalled a wide array of tools – enforcement actions, research, public education and outreach, training and victim services – to combat elder abuse and to ensure that our seniors have the support and protections that they deserve.”
Collectively, the department brought over 220 criminal and civil enforcement actions covering nearly 20 different types of fraud that targeted or disproportionately affected older Americans. Fraud types included tech support scams, veteran scams and fraud perpetrated by guardians and powers of attorney which are particularly egregious as these individuals hold a special duty to care. For the first time, the department brought cases that disrupted conduct facilitating fraud by stopping overseas internet calling services that facilitate fraudulent robocalls, and bringing down data companies and list brokers than facilitate mass marketing fraud. Interrupting fraud schemes prior to reaching older adults is key in the fight against elder fraud.
Over the past year, the department invested heavily in training and tools to ensure federal, state and local elder justice professionals are equipped to hold offenders accountable while ensuring victims receive the services they need. For example, the department supported the development of online elder abuse training for law enforcement that, for the first time, enables law enforcement officers to receive Peace Officer Standards and Training credit in 36 states.
The report also highlighted the many ways the department provides victim support for older Americans. For example, the FBI’s Recovery Asset Team was able to work with financial institutions to freeze over $13.5 million (a 75% success rate) among older victims of fraud before those monies were wired and lost to the victims. Moreover, the department’s Office for Victims of Crime awarded Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants to states totaling more than $1.6 billion, with $86 million of that allocated for programs serving older crime victims.
Components throughout the department engaged in public outreach activities as part of the department’s effort to prevent elder abuse. For example, many U.S. Attorney’s Offices participated in local outreach events such as town halls and media events, both in conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day celebrations and otherwise. In 2021, the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW) Resource Guide featured elder fraud and the National Elder Fraud Hotline.
Finally, research and statistical components within the department play a critical role in funding or producing information thereby enhancing our understanding of elder abuse, and ultimately informing policy and practice. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released the first 2020 Elder Fraud Report providing information useful for targeting interventions. For example, the report found that over 100,000 persons over the age of 60 filed a complaint, with a resulting loss of nearly $1 billion, although the greatest financial losses were associated with confidence fraud/romance scams.
To report financial fraud, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline, 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). For more information on the department’s elder justice activities, visit https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
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