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Perpetrators prey on the elderly stealing hundreds of millions of dollars using elaborate ruses. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of over 250 individuals in connection with fraudulent crimes against seniors on February 22, 2018.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained this was the biggest fraud sweep by multiple partners in history. Joining him at the press conference was the FBI Acting Director David Bowdich; Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell; Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen; and Derek Schmidt the Kansas Attorney General and the President of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Among those arrested for these crimes were men and women many of whom are seniors themselves. Incredibly, these criminals sought to prey the vulnerable and those in their own age group.
Two of the Postal-Related Crimes
In one direct-mailing con, the scam-artists took over $30 million from victims in 10 countries, including the United States, Japan, and Switzerland. The mailer informed recipients they were the winner of lavish prizes or cash. However, in order to receive these so-called gifts, the target was required to make a payment to claim their winnings. Even when these fees were submitted the victims never received their prizes or money.
The direct mailers, Ryan Young of New Jersey and Ercan Barker hailing from both Turkey and New Jersey, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Both admitted they knew the notifications were designed to “mislead and defraud.” Sixty-six-year-old Thomas Ressler of Montana was charged with creating the design of the mailer for this case and others.
For this scam, the shell companies were located in Hong Kong, Seychelles (East Africa), Belize, and the British Virgin Islands. The printers, postal brokers, mail processor, and payment processor were also located outside of the United States. Proceeds from these crimes went to the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
In another case, a 67-year-old Indiana resident was charged with collecting money through a “long-running psychic mail fraud scam.” Sherry Gore used a fictitious name to commit her crimes. The con consisted of letters sent by Director/Legal Services-Collections, in the communique Gore claimed the recipients’ checks had bounced. She further threatened the victims with a legal proceeding in order to collect.
AARP and Senior Corps Strive to End Crimes Against Elders
Whether it is mail or phone scams, crimes against estates, physical or mental abuse AARP and the Senior Corps are working to end crimes against elders.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. On their website users can locate:
- Tips and information about protecting oneself and their family
- Scam Tracking Map
- Consumer Protection
- Cyber Safety Tips
- Fraud Helpline
Unfortunately, there are so many con-artists and schemes. Here is a brief example of some schemes affecting older adults and how to beat them:
- The Grandparent Scam, callers targeting American seniors will tell the target they are their grandchild and need money. AARP suggests asking the caller a secret no one else would know. The FTC reports the game plan of the scammer is to pull at the heart-strings. These criminals can be calling from anywhere in the world and likely bought personal information to convince grandma they are who they claim to be.
- Crimes against veterans such as scams dealing with the vet’s benefits, identity theft, GI Bill marketing. Callers may tell their target they are calling from the VA. They may try to charge for VA records, which a veteran are always free. The best way to avoid being a victim is: Never talk to anyone claiming to be from the VA when the call was not initiated by the vet.
- Tech scams are common and they appear to have actual knowledge of a person’ computer system or phone. Calls may begin with, “Hello, this is Bob. You have a bad virus on your computer. I need you to open this link and share your screen with me.” If the target does what the caller wants them to do they will have total access to the computer or phone. If they are told no, their next comment is “I have complete control of your computer and if you do not do this you will be locked out of your computer.” This is a lie. Hang up and report the call to the local FBI and FTC offices.
“Senior Corps and the Corporation for National and Community Service partnered with the Department of Justice” to support the Elder Justice initiative. On their site, users will find information on stopping elder abuse. Statistics indicate that 1 in 10 seniors are subjected to abuse each year but only 1 in 23 is reported to Adult Protective Services.
Each state has a hotline to report suspicion of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation for adults living in facilities or in the community.
Anytime a person is taken advantage of by a scammer or is the target of illicit crimes these should be reported. The DOJ tells victims of elder fraud to file a report with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). More information and resources relating to crimes against seniors can be found at the DOJ Office of Victims of Crime at www.ovc.gov.
By Cathy Milne
The United States Department of Justice: Justice Department Coordinates Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep of More Than 250 Defendants
Corporation for National and Community Service: Elder Justice
AARP: Fraud Watch Network
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Paul Sullivan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License