As Elder Abuse Awareness Month comes to a close, it was perfect timing for President Trump and the Department of Justice to double up their commitment to protecting our older Americans.
With seniors being victims of a record number of fraud and abuse cases, it is gratifying knowing that additional efforts have been dedicated to helping keep our seniors safe from crime. We continue to hear the concerns about elderly fraud and abuse, those horrible crimes against the older population although it is assuring to hear the progress! We appreciate United States Attorney General Barr for making America's seniors a high priority.
General Barr recently mentioned in his remarks at the White House Summit on Protecting Seniors that the fraud perpetrated against seniors over the internet these days is alarming. For years, our older population struggled getting up to speed with the internet and have gradually become more confident with their use. However, sometimes with blessings, there are setbacks along the way.
Today, with seniors gaining confidence in their internet usage, more of them are online which opens them up for potential fraud and abuse. Attorney General Barr said, “Seniors lose billions of dollars a year to these frauds, with an annual individual loss exceeding $34,000.” Thankfully, President Trump and Attorney General Barr recognize that this criminal activity must come to an end.
In June 2019, the Justice Department announced the formation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, a joint effort to bring experts and resources together. Those providing expertise on this project are the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Attorney's office for 6 federal districts, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other organizations. The plan for the Strike Force was to focus on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign -based fraud schemes that affect American seniors.
One of the major success stories for the Strike Force was dismantling and shutting down some of the largest robocall carriers. A large number of the carriers were responsible for 720 million calls during a 23 day period in which many of those fraudulent calls were directed toward elderly citizens. Also, about the same time as these developments were taking place, the Postal service played an integral role cracking down on financial operatives who steal money from seniors and send it to their bosses back home.
In addition to those efforts, General Barr told the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office it was time to raise the stakes and prioritize elder fraud cases. By doing so, the Elder Fraud Sweep resulted in a record breaking 400 defendants being charged of whom were responsible for over one billion in losses. “It is despicable that scammers are using a public health crisis to exploit seniors' fears and steal their money”, Attorney General Barr said.
To offer a helping hand, the Justice Department set up a National Elder fraud Hotline to support victims of elder fraud and assist them in rebuilding their lives. It is staffed 7 days a week by skilled case managers and will operate as a 9-1-1 for elder fraud. Sadly, seniors sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed to report a fraud, so this will hopefully provide the resources they need. Statistics show, the earlier a crime is reported, the better the chances to catch the criminal and recover the victims assets.
We are grateful for the additional resources by President Trump, the Justice Department and other federal agencies for making elder fraud a high priority!