Elder fraud continues to be a growing concern, with increasing numbers of elderly individuals falling victim to scams and losing substantial sums of money. The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office has taken notice of this alarming trend and is committed to raising public awareness about elder fraud schemes. Recently, the FBI announced the arrest of two men allegedly involved in a telemarketing scam targeting elderly Timeshare Owners. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the crime, provide a guide on how to spot scams like this, and empower our readers to protect themselves and their loved ones from falling victim to such frauds.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received a staggering 88,262 complaints from adults over 60 in 2022, resulting in losses totaling $3.1 billion. This represents an 84% increase in losses compared to the previous year, with an average loss of over $35,000 per victim, and over 5,000 victims losing more than $100,000 each. California has been particularly hard-hit, leading the nation in the number of elderly fraud victims, with reported losses exceeding $624 million in 2022.
Elder fraud encompasses various forms of exploitation, where criminals misuse or steal financial assets, savings, income, or personal information from individuals aged 60 and above. These fraudsters use deceitful tactics, such as posing as government officials, feigning romantic interests, or promising lucrative financial returns, all used to exploit older adults without their knowledge or consent. Notably, cryptocurrency has emerged as a preferred payment method for these scams, with losses surpassing $1 billion in 2022.
In the most recent case, two individuals, Michael Farole (44) from West Los Angeles and Christopher Lang (42) from Hays, Kansas, were arrested for their alleged involvement in a telemarketing scheme targeting elderly victims. The defendants posed as representatives of companies offering advertising and other services to Timeshare Owners. They convinced victims to pay upfront fees for services related to: (1) selling, or (2) renting their timeshares, but failed to deliver the promised services.
As a result of their fraudulent activities, at least 370 elderly individuals lost over $4.5 million. The victims, often using their social security income, retirement savings, and investment accounts. Victims paid recurring fees without receiving the services or proceeds they were promised. The investigation revealed that the scammers used the money to enrich themselves and indulge in luxury expenses.
The FBI has come up with a guide to recognize generalized scam attempts:
- Recognize Scam Attempts: Be vigilant and end all communication with potential scammers. Trust your instincts; if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Exercise Caution with Unsolicited Offers: Beware of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or door-to-door service offers. Scammers often use urgency and fear tactics to pressure victims into immediate action.
- Guard Personal Information: Safeguard your personal information and avoid sharing sensitive details with unfamiliar individuals or companies.
- Monitor Financial Statements: Regularly review your financial statements for any suspicious activity or unauthorized transactions.
- Stay Updated with Security Protections: Ensure your computer’s anti-virus and security software are up to date to protect against online scams.
- Be Cautious in Online Relationships: Be wary of individuals claiming romantic interests online, especially if they request money or financial assistance.
- Consult Trusted Individuals: When in doubt, seek advice from family members or friends you trust before making any financial decisions.
We have our own tips for avoiding fraud, Check out our V-A-L-O-R System to verify your legal counsel.
Elder fraud is a concerning issue affecting numerous elderly individuals and their families. It’s crucial to remain informed and vigilant to protect ourselves and our loved ones from falling prey to these scams. The recent arrests of individuals involved in the telemarketing scam remind us of the importance of raising awareness and reporting suspicious activities to the FBI. By staying informed and following the guide provided, we can collectively work towards a safer environment for our senior citizens and safeguard their hard-earned assets from unscrupulous fraudsters. Remember, knowledge and vigilance are our strongest defenses against elder fraud.
Read the FBI’s article here.