FBI: Scammers targeting seniors to tune of more than $500 million

Investigators

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation says scammers last year took more than $500 million from American victims over the age of 60. The FBI also says fraud against that age group is increasing at an alarming rate.

ar took more than $500 million from American victims over the age of 60. The FBI also says fraud against that age group is increasing at an alarming rate.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, an anti-fraud seminar for seniors was held Wednesday in Wake Forest.

The seminar, called “Seniors at Risk: 21st Century Scam Threats, Prevention and Solutions, ” aimed to educate seniors about various scams.

The FBI’s internet crime center said over 7,500 seniors in North Carolina lost $175 million to criminals just last year.

There’s a simple reason they’re targeted.

“We have the free money,” said senior Jerome Glenn. “We’re the ones who’ve got retirement pay, social security, or maybe our investments are starting to pay off.”

Seniors are also more likely to answer the phone or respond to a plea for help from a stranger.

“Just yesterday I received two calls from people who asked me to verify my social security number within 15 minutes or I’d face federal prosecution,” said senior Brenda Thorne.

High-pressure tactics are used on seniors to get them to give up their cash.

The Secretary of State’s office sees it all the time.

“It’s always the same thing with different packaging,” said Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. “Generally, it’s ‘you got to act right now’ or ‘there’s a limited quantity.’ And if you don’t act, you’re a weak person.”

Although the seminar was aimed at teaching seniors how to avoid scams, the warnings apply to everyone because anyone can be victimized.

Everything from Ponzi schemes to false threats of arrest can make people vulnerable.

Here are red flags to watch out for:

  • Don’t pay a fee for a prize or lottery winning
  • Don’t click on pop-up ads or messages
  • Don’t send gift cards, checks, money orders, or wire money to strangers
  • Don’t fall for a high-pressure sales pitch or seemingly lucrative business deal

“It’s OK to put the phone down and say no,” said Marshall. “It’s OK to tell someone they are being too nosey. It’s OK to say ‘it’s not your business’ and close the door on them.

Anyone who sends a scammer money ends up on a list and will be targeted by other criminals.

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