Attorney General Announces Largest U.S. Elder Fraud Sweep

Inside Subprime: April 10, 2019

By Lindsay Frankel

Last month, Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced the largest elder fraud sweep in U.S. history, which involved over 260 defendants who scammed more than 2 million people.

This surpasses last year’s nationwide sweep in terms of total losses and the number of defendants and victims.

The justice department coordinated efforts in each federal district through criminal or civil case filings or with consumer education. Each case involved a defendant who allegedly committed fraud that targeted or heavily impacted senior citizens.

“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud.”

Since the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act was signed into law, the Department of Justice has carried out hundreds of enforcement actions to bring justice to senior citizens who were the target of fraudulent schemes. The passage of the Act also induced nationwide training efforts and outreach sessions.

There were several fraudulent schemes that the Department of Justice was successful at uncovering:

Technical Support Fraud

An increasingly common form of elder fraud involves scam artists who con seniors into permitting remote access to their computers for the purpose of technical support. There were more than 142,000 complaints to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network regarding technical support fraud in 2018, and this category received a greater number of complaints from seniors than any other type of fraud between 2015 and 2018. FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that victims of these scams frequently lose thousands or more.

10 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, along with The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section, brought charges against offenders who committed technical support fraud. Education efforts were also focused around technical support fraud.

Transnational Mass Mailing Fraud

The Postal Inspection Service was involved in taking down transnational criminal organizations that were perpetrators of mass mailing fraud against the elderly as part of the sweep. With help from the Spanish National Police, one scam artist who allegedly caused $180 million in losses to more than a million victims was arrested.

Money Mules

The Department of Justice also took action against money mules, or individuals that transport illegally obtained money to foreign ringleaders. The FBI and Postal Inspection Service issued warnings, conducted interviews, or brought charges against more than 600 alleged money mules. Secret Service agents were also involved in interrupting the transit of illegal proceeds from elder fraud.

interactive map contains a complete list of cases brought as a result of the sweep.

If you or someone you know was exposed to a scam targeting the elderly, you should file a complaint with the FTC.

For more information on scams, predatory lenders and payday loans, see our city and state financial guides including states and cities like CaliforniaTexas, Illinois and more.