DOJ cracks down on scammers targeting the elderly

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Scams are a huge business for criminals generating billions of dollars in revenue for them, and the federal government is trying to crack down on some of the worst scammers.

This week, the feds rounded up 250 suspects who they said were behind a variety of scams aimed at U.S. citizens, including some committed against the elderly.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced the action on Friday, calling it the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.

Experts say scamming is a fast-growing problem, with the rise of new technologies and improvements in that technology making it easier for criminals to co-ordinate their efforts and perpetuate their crimes.

But sometimes the crimes start very low-tech, with something like a simple letter.

Fraudulent mass mailings have stolen billions from victims according to the Department Of Justice.

It may start with a letter, but the hooks include calls and emails, too, which promise cash, valuable prizes or good fortune to the recipient.

According to court records obtained by CBS News, criminals in one scam mailed more than 950,000 fraudulent solicitations to people in 38 states.

Since 2011, the feds say, victims paid that network of scammers approximately $10 million.

The daughter of one scam victim told the U.S. Postal Inspection Service how criminals took advantage of her mom's diminished mental capacity to clean her out financially.

"In our case, our mom was scammed out of her entire life's savings," said Sheree Nudd.

She told the postal inspectors her mother, Bette Paris, lost that money after falling victim to a mass mailing fraud.

"She was entering a lot of foreign sweepstakes and lotteries, stuffing cash into envelopes - $25 dollars per envelope, a dozen envelopes a day," said Nudd.

Eventually, says Nudd, her mom's participation in mail scams lead to her name being put on a list by the criminals who began making telephone calls.

Says Nudd, "The telephone scammers take money at a much faster rate than the mail scammers."

Nudd said because of her mother's diminished mental capacity, she didn't believe she was being scammed.

But it's not just the elderly who are being flim-flammed, says the Department Of Justice. The schemes perpetrated against U. S. citizens include:

  • romance scams
  • IRS imposter scams
  • psychic and astrology scams
  • lottery scams

The feds say many of these criminals operate from overseas. In one case, the Department Of Justice says, "One of the schemes prosecuted criminally by the Consumer Protection Branch operated from 14 foreign countries."

Click here to read about international fraudulent mass mailing schemes.

If you think you've been the victim of a fraud or know an elderly person who has been taken advantage of by a scammer, the Federal TRrade Commishon offers resources. You can call 877-FTC-HELP or file a Fraud complaint with the FTC here.

The U.S. Department of Justice also provides a variety of resources relating to fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime, which can be found at


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