Over 400 caught in largest-ever elder fraud crackdown

Latest sweep reveals over $1 billion in losses as transnational elder fraud takes priority in enforcement agenda

Over 400 caught in largest-ever elder fraud crackdown

In its largest-ever sweep of alleged fraudsters, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged more than 400 defendants across the world for schemes targeting older Americans.

As reported by the U.S.-based interest group AARP, Attorney General William Barr made note of the record in an announcement Monday. He said that over the past year dating back to March 2019, the total documented amount lost by victims to fraud exceeded US$1 billion.

The department’s previous sweep, whose results were unveiled in 2019, led to charges for 260 criminal defendants.

“Americans are fed up with the constant barrage of scams that maliciously target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” Barr said.

Similar to recent findings by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the U.S. Justice Department’s latest annual effort included a wide spectrum of modi operandi, including grandparents scams, romance scams, and computer tech-support scams.

Many of the cases revolved around foreign-based scams that target large groups of older Americans, including those who may be new to the country. Members of a crime ring in Peru were accused of focusing on mostly elderly Spanish-speaking U.S. residents, telling victims they faced arrest, deportation, or seizure of property because they did not pay a bill for a product that they never actually purchased.

“All of this was lies,” said one senior D.O.J. official, who said several of those bad actors from Peru have been extradited.

And in a scheme similar to the infamous CRA scam in Canada, another Singapore-based fraudster tricked victims into sending money by pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service and telling them they had an outstanding tax obligation; that impersonator has also been extradited, according to the D.O.J. official.

The justice department has made disrupting and preventing transnational elder fraud one or its top priorities, according to Barr.

“The department is committed to stopping the full range of criminal activities that exploit America’s seniors,” he said.


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