DENVER (KDVR) — Preying on the elderly has become a lucrative business for criminals and now the United States Department of Justice is fighting international scam operations with an expansion of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force.
The effort is not only successfully tracking scams and netting arrests, but also providing restitution for victims.
An attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office told FOX31 that even her own grandmother was targeted.
“She received a phone call saying that I was in jail that I had been arrested and that I needed money for bail immediately,” she said.
Another family member intervened and hung up the phone.
“She was absolutely beside herself when they did that thinking that she lost her one opportunity to help me,” the attorney said.
This is just one example of the trickery and high-pressure tactics used to get victims to provide money and personal financial information. Fraudsters will sometimes use personal information found online to make their victim believe they are familiar with a loved one.
How DOJ is handling scammers, helping victims
Over the past year, the DOJ and its law enforcement partners pursued 260 cases involving more than 600 defendants.
An Estes Park case yielded the arrest of two people running a lottery scam.
First Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Kirsch told FOX31, “the scam involved many of the classic techniques, late-night telephone calls to try to create pressure, some of the scammers even showed up at the victim’s house at night posing as FBI agents.”
A restitution order was obtained in the case for approximately $880,000, the amount of money the victim had sent to the scammers.
The Justice Department was able to extradite the second defendant from Jamaica who was then convicted as well.
The DOJ also recovered $22,000 for an Arapahoe County resident, the victim of an investment loan scheme.
Between September 2021 and September 2022, approximately half a million people were notified that they are eligible for remission payments after falling victim to sweepstakes and astrology scams.
Kirsch advises taking a moment to consider any contact from an unknown person.
“Every single one of these scams works by the scammers attempting to create pressure and urgency on the victim, you can always take more time, you can always take time to think about what they’re saying,” he said.
What to do if you may have been scammed
Reporting scams is crucial in the effort to investigate criminal activity. Contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833 FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311) and the Stop Fraud website.
Kirsch added that you never need to send money or give other financial information immediately in response to a request made over the phone by any agency.