FBI Warns of Escalating Elderly Fraud – Here’s What You Need To Know

In America, more than 93,000 people fall victim to financial fraud annually. Whether you are a victim of identity theft, check fraud, email scams, ATM bank card theft, or another form of financial bilking, the results are devastating.

For older adults, the devastation is swift and nearly permanent. Unfortunately, as technology advances, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) warns that crooks and scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated in the variations of scams they use to con elderly persons out of massive sums of money. 

Serious Sums

To put into perspective just how severe online and over-the-phone scams are for the elderly, an estimated $28.3 billion is lost annually to these criminals. A retired Navy veteran, Rich Brune, expressed his horrible situation after encountering a Cryptocurrency scam last year. “I will probably be forced to take out a reverse mortgage. I will be virtually penniless as soon as I pay off the IRS.” 

Brune, who is 75 years old, was contacted online by a person posing as a Microsoft employee and told that someone had hacked his computer and his financial accounts were at risk. The thief then instructed him to deposit his money, over five months, into a cryptocurrency account that supposedly was “safe from purported hackers.” 

During those five months, the person stole a nest egg worth a reported $800,000, and another $200,000 is now owed to the Internal Revenue Service because most of the money came from Brune’s retirement accounts. 

Words of Warning

For their part, Microsoft says that every online interaction, whether through their websites or email, must be initiated by the customer. A spokesperson for the tech giant said, “Microsoft will never proactively send unsolicited messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or to provide technical support to fix your computer. The customer must initiate any communication. Any error message your device initiates will never have a number to call.”

Supervisory Special Agent Keithly of the FBI said the bureau is seeing a massive spike in what they call ‘Phantom Hacker Scams. They relayed this about these particular financial thefts. “It starts with the tech support scam, and the tech support scammer informs the victim that their accounts are at risk of being hacked. And the next player in the scam is somebody purporting to be from a financial institution. And then they tell the victim, ‘Your [financial] accounts have been hacked.”

These interactions impart fear to elderly victims, and the criminals prey on that fear to motivate their victims to move their money. Before you know it, the victims are often broke, and generally, there’s minimal help your financial institutions or the IRS can offer at that point. 

Helpful Information

For seniors, keeping financial records safe and money where it belongs is essential to ensuring their futures are well in order. To that end, the FBI, AARP, and Microsoft all have valuable information for anyone dealing with online interactions. 

  • Microsoft will never initiate contact on behalf of their company or your accounts.
  • The FBI warns that the US government will never ask individuals to transfer money to any government-run agency or cryptocurrency exchange. People should report any attempt to gain that information or activity to their local law enforcement agency. 
  • The AARP advises that you report any contact requesting your Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid information to law enforcement, as these are always scams.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to stem the effects of fraud on the elderly, in 2022, reported cases of crime were up 84% over 2021. Investigators continue to urge individuals to avoid unsolicited pop-ups and messages (both text and email) and to decline to download unknown software or requests for remote access to personal computers. 

Published with consideration from Microsoft SOURCE