The US Department of Justice Fights Back against Scammers

Last week the major news organizations reported that the US Justice Department was launching a major initiative to fight scams that target seniors. Here is how CBS reported the news: “Scams targeting elderly Americans are increasing dramatically. The DOJ says an estimated $3 billion is stolen from millions of seniors per year. The department announced its largest elder fraud crackdown in history on Thursday.”

Here is the Department of Justice (DOJ) statement: As one can see, the DOJ is concentrating on the following areas:

Actions against mass-mailing fraud industry. These include false promises of life changing events that never come true.

Actions against other elder fraud schemes. This includes lottery scams, grandparent scams, romance scams, IRS imposter scams and guardianship scams.

Public education. The DOJ is working with the Senior Corps to educate seniors.

Coordination with state officials.

Coordination with foreign law enforcement. A host of nations has formed the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG) which is working to prevent internet and mail fraud scams.

Elder fraud complaints – Go to or call at 877-FTC-HELP. 

Here is the DOJ Video of Woman whose Grandmother was scammed

Here is a List of Different Types of Scams

1 -Medicare Health Insurance scams: Fake insurance salespeople target anyone older than 65.

2 – Counterfeit Prescription Drugs: Phony drugs sold on the internet sold to people in need.

3 – Funeral and Cemetery Scams: Scammers read obituaries, attend the funeral service of complete strangers and tell the grieving widow or widower that the deceased had an outstanding debt with them. They then try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debts.

4 – Fraudulent Anti-aging Products: From fake Botox to phony homeopathic cures.

5 – Telemarketing/Phone Scams: Seniors are twice as apt to fall for telephone scams as any other age group.

6 – Internet Fraud: Don’t click on any unfamiliar emails because they may have programs to hack your computer.

7 – Investment Schemes: From Bernie Madoff to Nigerian Princes looking for partners, the list is endless but the scams are all similar.

8 – Homeowner Reverse Mortgage Scams: Letters sent to homeowners on official looking government letterheads looking for a fee to unlock what appears to be a reverse mortgage windfall.

9 – Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams: Telling seniors they won a lottery but must make some sort of payment to collect the reward.

10 – The Grandparent Scam: Telephone calls placed by scammers posing as a grandchild and asking for money.

Here are some other references for scams:

Consumer Advocate Jane Bryant Quin Chimes in

Here are some Phony sales pitches pointed out by Jane Bryant Quinn

1 – “People who made this investment are already earning 50 percent a year!”

2 – “You can trust me because we belong to the same church” (or temple, country club, bowling team, whatever).

3 – “This investment is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission!”

4 – “I specialize in conservative investments for seniors.”

5 – “I’ll earn a commission on this sale.”

The AARP Points out Warning Signs That a Senior is Vulnerable to Scams

1 – Lack of knowledge about major financial issues

2 – Physical frailty issues

3 – Isolation

4 – Suspicious behavior of relatives

Groucho Marx

I remember when Groucho Marx, who in his prime was the epitome of being witty and sharp was scammed late in life. Groucho had fallen ill after several strokes and hip surgery. He was put under the care of Erin Fleming, a former showgirl who slowly took over his life. She sent him to psychiatrists, had him medicated and bilked him for all she could. Here is the NY Times account of the resultant trial.

Today’s abuses of seniors are much more subtle and sophisticated. We all must beware. I hope the DOJ’s initiatives works.