On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the FBI Miami says they are working on combating elder abuse in South Florida, especially financial fraud targeted at seniors.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized every year on June 15. According to the FBI, the issue affects at least 10% of older Americans annually.
"Elder abuse is a serious growing problem in South Florida as we have a pretty sizable population of elderly folks," said Jay Bernardo, assistant special agent in charge with FBI Miami.
Recently the Internet Crime Complaint Center released a 2020 report on Elder Fraud, which found that Florida is up in the ranks compared to other states with victims over 60 years old.
“We are number two in both categories. Number of victims and total dollar value lost to the victims," said special agent Bernardo.
NBC 6 has reported on call center scams and recently family members in Hialeah who allegedly stole from their elderly relative who was in the hospital with COVID-19, but the FBI says romance is the most common way that criminals lure in their victims.
“We are seeing the number one money loss is in companion or romance schemes, which individuals use online tactics to either become romantically involved or just very friendly with the victims, gain their confidence, and then at some point they request financial gains," said Bernardo.
Other ways that criminals target the most vulnerable include:
- Sweepstakes or lottery scams
- Money Mules
- Tech Support Scams
- Government Impersonation
- Grandparent Scams where criminals pose as a relative in immediate need of money
- Family or caregiver scams where relatives or acquaintances of the elderly take advantage of them to get their money
The FBI tells us the pandemic also had an impact on more tech scams as people faced more loneliness and isolation, including spending more time on their computers.
There are still many ways to protect yourself and your family members.
“Keep in contact with your elders and have conversations about what these frauds are so they can be looking for them. Most importantly, hang up the phone when people call you. Legitimate companies do not call unsolicited to your phones," said Bernardo.
The FBI says there could be more underreported cases, so they urge people not to be afraid or ashamed to come forward.
If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim of elder fraud or abuse, you can contact 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online.
You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.