PHILADELPHIA, PA — The FBI Philadelphia Field Office says it wants to increase public awareness of common elder fraud scams, including romance scams, tech support scams, “grandparent” scams, and government imposter scams.
Every year, thousands of older Americans fall victim to elder fraud. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, people over 60 reported losing nearly $1.7 billion to scams in 2021. This represents a 74% increase over total losses reported in 2020.
In Pennsylvania alone last year, victims over 60 reported losses totaling more than $77 million, more than three times the $23.3 million reported in 2020.
Criminals target people over 60 because they are often financially stable, more trusting, and less likely to report crimes. As the older population in this country grows, we can expect scammers to continue targeting older Americans.
“Scammers who prey on older folks because they consider them easy targets are despicable criminals,” said FBI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire. “We’ll do our part to do all we can to bring these scammers to justice, and we ask the public to help as well, to protect our cherished elders. Please talk about elder fraud with older relatives and friends, to make them aware of the different ways criminals may try to steal their hard-earned money. And, if you’re being victimized or know someone who is, please reach out and report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or call your local field office.”
Some common elder fraud schemes:
In romance scams (also known as confidence scams), criminals create fake profiles on dating sites or social media platforms to form relationships with victims. They leverage these relationships to manipulate and steal from victims—and often break their hearts.
Romance scams are one of the most common scams reported to the FBI. The IC3 has specifically warned about a rise in reports of romance scammers defrauding victims through cryptocurrency schemes.
Protecting Yourself from Romance Scams
- Think twice before you share personal information online. Scammers can use details shared on dating sites and social media platforms to better target victims.
- Beware of online suitors who try to isolate you from your family or friends or who ask you to send inappropriate photos or financial information that they could later use to extort you.
- Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person.
Tech Support Scams
In tech support scams, fraudsters pose as customer or tech support representatives. They may call, email, or text their targets and offer to resolve such issues as a compromised email or bank account, a computer virus, or a software license renewal.
Legitimate customer and tech support representatives won’t initiate unsolicited contact with customers. They won’t demand immediate payment or require payment via mailed cash, prepaid cards, or wire transfers either.
Protecting Yourself from Tech Support Scams
- Be wary of any unsolicited “tech support” calls or contacts.
- Don’t give unverified people financial information or remote access to your devices or accounts.
- Keep your devices and software up to date.
Grandparent scams prey on the elderly by taking advantage of their love and concern for their grandchildren.
The basic scenario:
A grandparent receives a phone call from “their grandchild,” often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. The person claims to have gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged, and says they need money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. A recent twist on this scam has a courier or rideshare driver showing up at the grandparents’ house to pick up the payment in person.
Protecting Yourself from Grandparent Scams
- Resist the pressure to act quickly.
- Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
- Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email—especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash; once you send it, you can’t get it back.
Government Imposter Scams
Government imposter scams can be particularly effective because of the intimidation factor.
Scammers have been known to impersonate officials from all kinds of agencies—FBI, IRS, Social Security, U.S. Marshals, state and local police, and county courts.
They’ll make contact by phone or electronically and use threats and urgency to scare victims into paying. For example, you must take action right now and provide money or personal information, to avoid arrest, deportation, tax charges, a social security freeze, and the like. There are any number of variations to this type of scam.
Protecting Yourself from Government Imposter Scams
- Know that law enforcement authorities and government officials will never contact members of the public by phone, text, or social media to demand any form of payment, or to request sensitive personal information.
- Any legitimate investigation or legal action will be done in person or by an official letter.
- No legitimate law enforcement or government official will request payment via prepaid cards or cryptocurrency ATM.
- Never give personally identifying information to anyone without confirming the person is who they say they are.
- When in doubt, contact the agency in question at a verified phone number listed on its website.
If you believe you or someone you know has fallen victim to an elder fraud scheme, you can submit the information to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. You can also call your local FBI office. PSAs about various types of fraud schemes can also be found at ic3.gov.