Criminals love easy targets, and one of the easiest targets for foreign-state-based scammers is older adults living in the USA. Elders are often not fully up-to-speed with technology, which makes them vulnerable to tech-related attacks. In addition, this type of social group is generally living off retirement savings meaning that they have access to cash. Unfortunately, those factors make them an attractive target for personal cyber-attacks.
The FBI recently released a new public service announcement (PSA) that highlights an attack on a 98 years old veteran named William Webster, a former federal judge and former director of the FBI and CIA. A Jamaican phone scammer using a fake name persistently targeted William and his wife by trying to convince them that they’ve won $72 million from the lottery and are required to pay $50,000 to obtain the funds and cover the taxes on the prizes that also included a luxury car.
When the couple declined repeatedly, the phone scammer became abusive and threatening. William reported the incidents to multiple government security organizations who managed to identify the individual located in the Caribbean. When the Jamaican citizen jumped on a flight to the US, he was met by government agents who arrested him in 2017. The 32-year-old individual is still serving a 71 months sentence that began in 2018 when he pleaded guilty to the scam charges. The skillful con artist will be deported back to Jamaica when the sentence is over.
The Webster family are not the only ones being targeted. According to an FBI report on Elder Fraud, last year alone saw just over 90,000 cases that caused losses of over a billion dollars. Those are numbers only from the US, but the global numbers are likely much higher as hackers target people in all developed countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, etc. The number is up 74% since 2020 and will likely double this year.
Lynda Webster, the wife of the targeted former federal judge, has been very vocal about the incident. In an interview for a TV station in Arizona, she said that since they became involved with the issue, they’ve heard multiple sad stories of people defrauded with millions of dollars. They also noted that they know of people who were threatened and committed suicide because of failing victims of elderly fraud.
Everyone, including high-profile individuals such as William and his family, can become a target of an elder fraud scheme. With age, judgment erodes, and it is the family’s responsibility to protect the elders from criminals who gain older people’s trust and then prey on their desire for companionship, love, or financial security.
If you or your loved ones have been affected by elder fraud, you should report the crime. In many cases, elders are embarrassed and fail to report such crimes, but they should not. Tens of thousands of older Americans fall in for scams every year – the more info government security agencies have, the more likely it is for fraudsters to one day end up behind bars.
The FBI wants people to report financial fraud by calling the National Elder Fraud Hotline at (833) 372-8311. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.