5 most common types of transnational elder fraud: Internet Scambusters #1,064
With 10,000 people reaching retirement age every day, elder fraud - basically, the scamming of senior citizens - is on the rise. And a big chunk of the crimes start out abroad.
Now, government agencies have stepped up their fight to stem the vast number of foreign, senior-targeting scams.
In this week's issue, we highlight the most common types of elder fraud originating abroad, with tips on what you can do to avoid this crime.
Let's get started…
Phishing Alert As Foreign Elder Fraud Battle Is Stepped Up
Seniors are being caught up in a new wave of phishing scams from overseas gangs.
In the latest onslaught of what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) calls transnational elder fraud, scammers use the tried and tested tactic of tricking victims into disclosing personal confidential information via emails, phone calls, and text messages.
But because they're based abroad, the fraudsters are more difficult to track down. This has prompted the DOJ to beef up its Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force - a collaboration between various government and law enforcement agencies trying to stem the tides of overseas scams.
After the original initiative was launched in 2019, then-Attorney General James Barr said: "Fraud against the elderly is on the rise. One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes."
Statistics are hard to come by because, with caller ID spoofing, it's not always clear where a scam originates but, with some crimes, the proportion of overseas-based frauds could be as high as 64 percent in the US, according to research by Pindrop Labs. Many of them also use US-based "money mules" to collect their loot and forward it to them.
Furthermore, seniors are more reluctant to report scams. It's estimated that less than 1 in 40 elder scams are ever reported. Even so, the seniors' organization, AARP, says more than half of all older folk are targeted by scams every year. And they lose at least $3 billion annually.
The 5 Most Common Elder Scams From Overseas
Because of these issues, we don't really know the true scale of this crime. But we do know which scams are the most common.
These include the new wave of phishing scams identified by the Strike Force as an "emerging threat."
"With increasing frequency, fraudsters are turning to spam text messages or emails to lure victims into divulging personally identifying information, which can then be used by the fraudsters to commit identify theft," says the DOJ. "Many of these messages purport to be from well-known retailers, delivery services, financial institutions, utility companies, or government agencies."
Other frequent scams from overseas that target older folk include:
- Romance scams, which cause higher losses per victim in the US than any other senior fraud. Fraudsters spend months or even years grooming their victims before asking for money. Older folk generally tend to be lonelier than other age groups, and 1 in every 8 online lonely hearts is 65 and over. And they're more likely to be taken in by the scammers' smooth talk.
- Lottery and prize draw scams. It's well known that many of these frauds originate in Jamaica and some African countries. Thousands of spam messages and calls go out every single day, telling potential victims they have won big-time but have to pay to collect.
- Tech support tricks. Many of these either start in the Indian sub-continent or involve India-based call centers. Seniors tend to be less tech-savvy and therefore easier to convince that they have problems with their PC or mobile device.
- Government imposters. Although Social Security Administration impersonation currently is the most prevalent government imposter fraud, overseas fraudsters impersonate any number of government agencies, including the IRS, FBI, DEA, and Medicare, says the Justice Department.
Other frauds originating abroad include investment scams, bogus charities, and fake distress calls from supposed relatives (the grandparent scam).
How To Protect Yourself From Overseas Fraudsters
A fast and accelerating rise in the number of seniors - 10,000 Americans join that age group every day - lies behind the decision this past October to increase the number of regional elder Strike Force operations from 6 to 20 nationwide.
James Foley, vice president of the National White Collar Crime Center warned recently in Police Chief Magazine: "With this increase in older Americans, and with more of them using the internet and social media sites, the elder fraud victim pool has increased greatly in size over the past few years, enabling cyber criminals to drain the savings of persons who are often isolated or lonely."
Safety tactics are similar to those for scams of all types and age groups - using up to date security software, avoiding clicking on links, keeping passwords and personal information secret, and a big dose of skepticism. It's also sensible to be wary of callers with foreign accents and messages that use poor English.
But, where elders are concerned, the number one rule is for them not to give out this sort of information or click links in unsolicited calls and messages without talking first to a trusted friend or relative. If you're not a senior but have older folk in your family, it's important to ask them to do this, before they part with money or information.
It's also crucial to report any scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission and/or the Internet Crime Complaint Center so these agencies know where to focus their firepower and to give victims the best chance of getting their money back.
For more help, the DOJ operates a National Elder Fraud Hotline. It's staffed from 10am to 6pm Eastern, Monday to Friday. The number is 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).
This Week's Alerts
Targeting Macs: Apple Mac computers are generally rated as much less prone to malware than Windows PCs. But that doesn't mean they never get attacked. A gang behind LockBit, one of the most common ransomware attacks, has reportedly re-written its software specifically for Apple Silicon Macs, according to Apple Insider. Be on your guard!
Latest data breach: TMX Finance says a data breach leaked confidential details of 4.8 million customers of its TitleMax, TitleBucks, and InstaLoan companies. The data included Social Security numbers. A class action suit is on the way. Learn more at If You Got a TitleMax Data Breach Notice, Here’s What You Need to Know.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!