Law enforcement warning increased risk of elder fraud related to COVID-19

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Several law enforcement agencies are partnering with banks and social service organizations to educate employees on the signs of financial exploitation of the eldery.

A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of Illinois, says a virtual training seminar was held last week with several banks in Springfield. The purpose was to emphasize the importantance of preventing and reporting fraud and attempted scams.

“Increased isolation related to Covid-19 has been identified as a primary cause of a significant increase in the number of older Americans targeted for scams and fraud and of those who fall victim to these crimes,” says Acting U.S. Attorney Doug Quivey.

“Fraudsters use the internet and phone to reach vulnerable elder citizens and persuade them to give money to a charitable cause, to someone with whom they’ve developed a romantic connection, to access large winnings through a sweepstakes or lottery, and to pose as government employees who claim the victim owes taxes or social security.”

“For a variety of reasons, older citizens may not always be able to protect themselves from the increasing prevalence of financial scams or other exploitation, particularly those who suffer from memory impairment,” says Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright. “Older individuals too often become targets for creative fraudsters out to take advantage of the vulnerable. Financial institutions are critical partners in the identification and reporting of crimes against the elderly.”

Signs of financial exploitation of the elderly can include:

  • A senior customer’s sudden change in banking activity to include frequent ATM withdrawals, wire transactions, gift cards purchases, or cryptocurrency purchases.
  • A nervous or confused senior on the phone or in the bank
  • An elder customer who exits and immediately returns to the lobby.
  • Elders who are elusive with details about why and to whom they are sending money or are confused about “missing funds.”

Prosecutors say it’s critical that people quickly report these signs to law enforcement. They add if a fraud-related banking transaction is reported within the first 72 hours, authorities might be able to stop the transaction and get the money back. However, as time passes, the likelihood of recovering those funds drops.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office adds that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Senior Services of Central Illinois, and agents and officers with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, and the Springfield Police Department, also presented at the seminar.

If a senior or friend or relative of a senior believes they are at risk for imminent danger or financial exploitation, the release says they should call 9-1-1.

Reports of financial exploitation and abuse should be reported to the non-emergency number at the Springfield Police Department 217-788-8311. The Adult Protective Services Hotline number to report elder fraud is 866-800-1409. Elder fraud may also be reported to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at 800-243-5377.

Internet-based fraud should be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3:  https://www.ic3.gov/Home/FileComplaint

More information can be found at www.ftc.gov.

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