If You're Over 60, the FBI Has a Major New Warning for You
Both seniors and their caregivers will want to be aware of this.
Getting older comes with certain risks we're well aware of, from mobility issues to health conditions like dementia. But there are other risks that are easier to overlook, including the myriad scams and cons designed to take advantage of people over a certain age. Now, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director has issued an urgent warning for older people that you'll want to heed. Read on to find out what he wants you to look out for.
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The FBI issues warnings about scams to watch out for often.
The FBI's most recent warnings include one alert about a major Netflix scam. As part of this scheme, criminals send text messages claiming to be from the streaming service, alerting you about your account status and including a link to update your information. By clicking the "keep watching link," scammers are then able to exploit your phone or computer, officials warned.
But it's not only cons the FBI issues warnings about. The agency recently reported an increase in the trend of active shooter incidents at grocery stores like Walmart and Kroger.
Now, an ex-director of the agency has issued a warning of his own for older adults—and it comes from personal experience.
The former FBI head issued a warning for those over 60.
In a video public service announcement (PSA) posted on the FBI website on May 10, William Webster, who previously served as director of both the FBI and the CIA, issued a warning about elder fraud. Webster instructed older adults to pay attention to warning signs of these financial schemes, which purposely target older adults in an attempt to con them out of money or property.
"Each year, millions of older Americans fall victim to financial fraud schemes," Webster says in the PSA. "Criminals gain older people's trust and then prey on their desire for companionship, love, or financial security."
Webster warns older adults not to fall for "scammers' promises." These scams are often conducted over the phone or through email, according to the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) National Elder Fraud Hotline. Seniors are attractive targets, the FBI warns, particularly due to their tendency to be trusting and polite, as well as their likelihood to "have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit."
"These are criminals who want to take one thing: your money," Webster says in the PSA. "You've worked hard. You've saved. Don't let criminals try to take that away from you."
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Webster speaks from personal experience.
In 2014, Webster himself was a victim of elder fraud. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Keniel Thomas, a Jamaican national, contacted Webster and told him he was the head of the Mega Millions lottery game. He then proceeded to claim that Webster had won $15.5 million and a 2014 Mercedes Benz. Before being awarded the prize, Thomas said Webster would need to pay $50,000 "to cover the taxes."
Webster reported the incident to the FBI, and when he received a second call from Thomas the next day, the agency was able to record it. Thomas continued to make additional calls throughout the month, during which he said he had surveilled Webster's home. He also placed a separate call to Webster's wife, threatening violence if the Websters did not pay, the DOJ said. Thomas was identified in an investigation and arrested on Dec. 18, 2017 and sentenced to 71 months in prison in Feb. 2019.
Webster speaks of his experience during the PSA, stressing the severity of the problem. "I served in World War II and Korea. I was a federal judge. I was the director of the FBI, director of the CIA, and I was the target of an elder fraud scheme," Webster says, adding, "If it can happen to me, it can happen to you."
Officials urge older adults to report fraud when it happens.
According to the National Elder Fraud Hotline, in 2018 alone, scams targeting older adults led to the loss of over $184 million. Now, the FBI estimates that amount has surged to $3 billion in annual losses.
In his PSA, Webster asks that anyone affected by elder fraud—whether it's you or a loved one—report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3 online at ic3.gov.
The National Elder Fraud Hotline also offers several resources on its website, assisting with the reporting process for free.
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