The FBI reports that elder fraud complaints and losses are increasing in the United States

The FBI reports that elder fraud complaints and losses are increasing in the United States

According to the 2023 Elder Fraud Report, losses reported by those over 60 to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center exceeded $3.4 billion, up nearly 11% from 2022. Complaints filed by older victims increased by 14 percent.

Here in Maine, the FBI reported nearly 400 complaints last year with losses of more than $7 million.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said the most common scams his consumer protection division sees involve home construction, people impersonating family or government, and sales of home appliances and cars.

Frey said seniors are targeted because they often have a nest egg of savings, positive credit and are trustworthy, and some have lost their savings to scammers.

“It's always so important up front to do everything you can to make sure you're entering into a relationship with someone you can trust and who you're confident will perform as expected of you,” Frey said. “It is always easier to control what happens before the money is spent than to try to get it back afterwards.”

Frey said people should do their research before hiring contractors and have a written contract for home projects over $3,000, which can be prosecuted under the Home Construction Contract Act.

He said state law provides implied warranties for device purchases, and the Consumer Protection Division has a free mediation service to help consumers understand their rights and find a solution with a company.

The attorney general said consumers can also protect themselves by limiting publicly available information, such as on Facebook. Do not publish your birth and last name. If you don't know a caller's phone number, don't answer. If an email seems unfamiliar, don't open it.

If you discover you've been scammed, you should report it to the consumer protection department, your bank and law enforcement as quickly as possible, Frey said, so they can attempt to stop a money transfer.

Jane Margesson, spokeswoman for AARP Maine, said the pandemic has fueled the increase in scams because we now do more online and that increases our vulnerability.

“Everyone should freeze their credit report, and you have to do that with all three agencies, Experion, Equifax and Transunion. “But once you put a freeze on your credit report, even if your Social Security number or other sensitive information has been stolen, if that freeze is in place, the damage from that theft can be significantly limited,” she said.

Margesson said it's also important to regularly check credit card and bank statements for transactions that don't look right, update passwords regularly and not open unexpected email attachments.

She said there had been an increase in scams related to online shopping, working from home, parcel delivery and online banking.

Read the 2023 FBI Elder Fraud Report here.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

AARP Fraud Watch Network

Hotline: 1-877-908-3360

AARP hosts a free monthly virtual call to discuss current scams and answer questions. The next date is Thursday, May 9th. Find out more here.

Anna Harden

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