Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, applauded the work of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and multiple law enforcement agencies, which recently resulted in the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. This sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe who defrauded more than two million Americans, most of them elderly, out of more than $750 million.
“As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is preventing fraud and scams targeting older Americans, who lose nearly $3 billion a year to these criminals,” said Senator Collins. “I applaud the Department of Justice and other agencies for their commitment to stopping elder fraud. This historic sweep sends a strong message that criminals who prey on vulnerable Americans will be caught and prosecuted. We must continue our efforts to bring awareness to this issue and to help prevent our nation’s seniors from falling victim to these crimes.”
As part of the sweep, the DOJ announced a tech-support fraud takedown. In 2018, tech-support schemes generated more than 142,000 consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Consumers age 60 and older filed more loss reports on tech-support scams from 2015 to 2018 than on any other fraud category reported to the FTC.
In addition, the DOJ took action against the money mule network that facilitates foreign-based elder fraud. Generally, a money mule is someone who transfers money acquired illegally in person, through the mail, or electronically on behalf of others. Across the country, money mules receive fraud proceeds directly from victims and forward proceeds to perpetrators and ringleaders of fraud schemes—individuals who often reside in other countries. As part of the sweep, the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service took action against more than 600 alleged money mules nationwide by conducting interviews, issuing warning letters, and bringing civil and criminal cases. Secret Service agents aided these efforts by seizing and forfeiting elder fraud proceeds in transit from victims to perpetrators.
Many of the cases brought as part of this elder fraud sweep—including many of the tech-support fraud cases—allegedly involved transnational criminal organizations. The DOJ’s Office of International Affairs worked with numerous countries to secure evidence and capture defendants. During the sweep period, defendants in elder fraud cases were extradited from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Poland.
In January, Senator Collins released the Aging Committee’s 2019 Fraud Book in a hearing titled “Fighting Elder Fraud: Progress Made, Work to be Done.”
The Senate Aging Committee operates a toll-free Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) for people to report being victimized by scam artists or to receive assistance if they think they are being scammed.