People over 60 were the special targets of COVID-19-related Internet schemes and financial fraud in 2020, with 28 percent of the total fraud losses sustained by seniors, according to the FBI.
These Internet fraud schemes reaped approximately $1 billion in losses purely from seniors in 2020, the FBI said in a report released Tuesday.
“This represents an increase of approximately $300 million in losses reported in 2020 versus what was reported by victims over 60 in 2019,” said the report.
The frauds include romance scams, tech support fraud, and lottery or sweepstake scams. “Criminals gain their targets’ trust or use tactics of intimidation and threats to take advantage of their victims,” warns the FBI.
“Once successful, scammers are likely to keep a scheme going because of the prospect of significant financial gain.”
California seniors account for more than $100 million of the losses, according to the report. The other states that have seen the most over-60 losses are Texas, Massachusetts and Florida.
“The pandemic required many elderly victims to shop online for the first time ever. Elderly victims filed over 14,000 Non-Payment/Non-Delivery complaints experiencing losses over $40 million in 2020, making Non-Delivery of products the second most reported fraud among the elderly,” said the FBI.
The FBI report said more elderly are engaging in social media and the combination of online shopping and social media “create easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements.”
“Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item,” said the FBI report.
“One of the biggest issues that we have going on right now, especially as we’re coming out of a pandemic which put a lot of people into a situation — especially amongst the elderly population, that forced them onto the internet, for some of them the first time — to have to try and buy things over the internet and get out of their comfort zone a little bit,” said FBI El Paso Division Special Agent Jeff Reisinger, who works on the agency’s Financial Crime Squad, to the El Paso Times.
The new report by the FBI’S Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3, was released on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.