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As part of implementing a robust cybersecurity standard, we must understand how bad actors are intentionally targeting our older colleagues and loved ones. On April 30, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced charges against 16 defendants in connection with a scam that defrauded hundreds of elderly Americans out of millions of dollars. Just in the last month or so, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (“IC3”) has issued its Annual Elder Fraud Report and several press releases on social engineering techniques. In short, online fraud is rampant and resulting in huge losses. 

Elder fraud often involves technical or customer support fraud, or government impersonation scams. In 2023, the IC3 received 880,418 complaints with potential losses exceeding $12.5 billion. According to the IC3 2023 Annual Report, the three costliest internet crimes were investment fraud ($4.57 billion), business email compromise ($2.9 billion), and tech/customer support or government impersonation scams ($1.3 billion). A large percentage of these scams involved the elderly being intentionally targeted. According to the FBI’s 2023 Elder Fraud Annual Report, individuals over the age of 60 reported total losses exceeding $3.4 billion in 2023. The FBI indicated elder fraud losses rose 11% from 2022 to 2023. Elder fraud is such a problem that DOJ has a National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-fraud-11 (1-833-372-8311). Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov or at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

According to DOJ, there are now sophisticated networks of transnational call centers targeting elderly citizens that have victimized hundreds of Americans resulting in millions of dollars of loss. In the scam, participants in the fraud called elderly victims impersonating loved ones in distress using technology that made it appear that the calls were coming from inside the United States. Then, other conspirators would call the elderly victims impersonating police officers, attorneys, or court personnel and convince the victims to send money. If you, a coworker, or a loved one becomes a victim of internet crime, quickly contacting the proper financial institution to stop the loss of funds is essential, including promptly having the Financial Fraud Kill Chain request sent to the proper financial institution to freeze the funds before they are lost forever. The best chance of getting hijacked funds back is when the Financial Fraud Kill Chain request is sent to the proper financial institution within the first 48 hours of the attempted fraudulent wire transfer. In 2023, the IC3 Recovery Asset Team reported assisting in freezing over $538.4 million from attempted fraudulent wire transfers.

Three simple actions may help prevent huge losses: 1) Check in on our elders regularly, including checking their various financial accounts; 2) Prepare accounts to restrict or prohibit wires/withdrawals based upon amounts or locations; and, 3) Set up verification processes that require verbal communication before money can be sent and verbal communication after money should have been received.