Have you or your senior loved one been the victim of fraud?

If so, you’re not alone. A new FBI report shows scammers stole approximately $1 billion from older adults in the United States in 2020 – an increase of almost $300 million from 2019.

“Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or internet schemes, such as romance scams, tech support fraud and lottery or sweepstakes scams,” said Calvin Shivers, Assistant Director in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Investigative Division. “Criminals gain their targets’ trust or use tactics of intimidation and threats to take advantage of their victims. Once successful, scammers are likely to keep a scheme going because of the prospect of significant financial gain.”

To guard against senior scammers, the FBI recommends that you:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist pressure to act quickly. Senior scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shutting down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by scammers to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to voice accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
  • Contact authorities immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.

“It is only by victims reporting fraud that we can identify trends, educate the public, and support investigations,” Shivers said. “Nowhere is this more important than crimes against seniors.”

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online.