The Western District U.S. Attorney William Barr and the FBI have announced an Elder Justice Initiative. The initiative aims to expand efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams targeting seniors and to educate older adults on how to identify scams and to combat elder financial exploitation and promote coordination with law enforcement partners.

Thus far, the initiative is the largest sweep of elder fraud cases to surpass the 2018 nationwide sweep that involved more than 250 defendants worldwide who victimized over two million American, most of whom were elderly.

“Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history,” Barr said. “This year’s sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, 28 percent more in losses, and twice the number of fraud victims as last year’s sweep. I want to thank the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which led this effort, together with the Department’s Criminal Division, the more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and the state and local partners who helped to make these results possible. Together, we are bringing justice and peace of mind to America’s seniors.”

In North Carolina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI have partnered with the AARP to conduct outreach and raise awareness. The AARP website lists 40 types of scams in their fraud resource center, each linking to a description, warning signs and do’s and don’ts.

According to a press release, the targeting of seniors is a growing concern in North Carolina. Scams can come in a variety of forms including tech support, lottery, IRS impersonators, grandparent, and sham business opportunities. Losses from alleged elder fraud schemes totaled over $750 million during this year’s sweep.

One of the most prevalent scams is the robocall. It’s gotten to the point where many people no longer answer their phones, even when a local number is on caller ID. That’s a common tactic to disguise the caller’s true location called neighbor spoofing.

The AARP advises not to answer calls from unrecognized numbers. If that happens by mistake don’t speak or press any keys. That lets the scammer know that they’ve reached a working number, leading to more calls. Adding a phone number to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry won’t stop fraudulent calls, but it can make them easier to recognize because legitimate telemarketers often don’t call numbers on the registry.

The North Carolina Department of Justice tracks recent consumer frauds and scams on their website. Since the beginning of 2019, they’ve tracked scams involving social security, fake letters about deployed service members, fraudulent tax preparers, and counterfeit checks via scammers posing as the NC ABC Commission.

To report victimization or new senior scams contact the North Carolina Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-FTC-HELP or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. Complaints can also be filed online with the FBI at www.IC3.gov.

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