In 2021, 92,000 seniors over the age of 60 in the U.S. lost almost $1.7 billion in scams according to the Elder Fraud Report released by the FBI in May. This represents a 74% increase over losses reported in 2020.
Most Black adults are aware of at least one scam. An AARP analysis found that 21 percent of African-Americans who were targets of a scam lost money and 60 percent of them reported that they lost money more than once. This is consistent across racial groups.
Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit — all of which make them attractive to scammers.
Scammers look for vulnerability and often find it in seniors. They also may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed at having been scammed. Older adults might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their abilities to manage their own financial affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators.
The House of Representatives passed the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act. The bipartisan measure enabled the Securities and Exchange Commission to help state enforcement agencies and task forces protect and educate seniors through the creation of a new Senior Investor Protection Grant Program. The bill authorizes $10 million each year to hire additional investigative staff and improve technology, training and equipment.
Additionally, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) sponsored the Senior Security Act, which was passed by the House in 2021. The Senior Security Act created a task force within the SEC to submit reports to Congress every two years on financial schemes targeting seniors, like robocalls and voice spoofing.
In 2018, Rep. Karen Bass (C-37) introduced a resolution to raise awareness about the barrage of fraud attempts aimed at seniors. The resolution encouraged Congress to implement policies to prevent senior scams from happening and to improve protections from these scams. The resolution also designated May 15 as “National Senior Fraud Awareness Day.”
“These attacks on the safety and security of seniors in our communities are unacceptable but, unfortunately, they aren’t new. During the pandemic my office received reports of people coming up to the doors of our elders, posing as COVID testers or census workers, and requesting sensitive information like social security numbers and other forms of identification – something that real census workers or health workers would never do.” said Bass.
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office at (310) 477-6565 or submit a tip online at losangeles.fbi.gov