When Dorothy Lambing of Louisiana got a call saying she had won a prize worth thousands of dollars, she and her husband were desperate and battling cancer. All she had to do was purchase a six-month supply of vitamins. “I checked with the Better Business Bureau and he was not listed with any complaints and so I said, well, OK, it might be something true,” she told CBS News. She gave the caller $2,500, but she was one of more than a million older Americans targeted by scammers. The Justice Department says fraudsters reach out with calls, emails or regular mail promising cash, valuable prizes or good fortune if the recipient sends back a payment for processing fees. DOJ says scams targeting senior citizens are increasing dramatically. An estimated $3 billion is stolen from seniors each year.
A scheme by one network of scammers mailed more than 950,000 fraudulent solicitations to people in 38 states. One promised a prize of $3.3 million. Federal charges were filed last week against 200 scammers who mostly target the elderly. He wants people to know there is help. The Federal Trade Commission has a hotline (1-877-382-4357) and a website with more information. Angela Stancik, whose grandmother Marjorie committed suicide after investing her savings in a scam, urges family members to monitor elderly relatives to help protect them from financial predators. One common type of elder exploitation is “grandparent schemes,” where scammers convince seniors that a grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that one of his own staffers got a call from her distraught grandmother, afraid that her granddaughter was in jail. The FBI urges people to check with law enforcement before sending money to anyone they don’t know.