Fraud, scams targeting elderly: How to protect yourself

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia is warning of the rising number of elder fraud scams.

Georgia has some of the highest numbers of elder fraud out of all 50 states.

At a seminar for elder abuse prevention, around 200 senior citizens gathered at the Harriet G. Darnell senior center in Atlanta to learn how they can protect themselves from scammers.

Stats from federal law enforcement show just how bad it’s gotten for seniors in the U.S. and Peach State.

"The Department of Justice, over the past year or so, has brought about 300 cases, both civil and criminal. And just in the cases that we have charged, well over $1 billion has been taken from over 2 million people," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan Buchanan.

Georgia, unfortunately, makes up a large chunk of that fraud.

According to the FBI, Georgia is number 10 in the nation for the most money lost to elder fraud, with more than $92 million being lost by Peach State seniors to scams in 2023.

"We've got a sort of a victim-rich environment in terms of lots of potential victims in the population, from southwest Atlanta, all the way up to far North Georgia," Buchanan said.

23 December 2023, Lower Saxony, Norden: A lady over 90 years old makes a phone call on her smartphone. Photo: Matthias Balk/dpa (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)

According to the FBI’s latest data, there have already been $1.6 billion in losses from January to May 2024 nationwide, up nearly $300 million from the same time period last year.

Scammers have even used Buchanan’s name and position to try to convince people to pay up.

"The jury duty scam, which is interesting and disturbing to me because these scammers use my name in it and say, ‘hey, the US Attorney's office notes that you missed jury duty and you need to send us money. And it’s just not true," Buchanan said.

That’s why he’s partnered with the North Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force to do events like this.

So that they can make seniors aware of the need to take a step back and call to verify before giving any money out.

"A deep breath and a call to verify can save a lot of money," Buchanan said.

He says some of the most important things to remember are: 

  • Law enforcement will never demand money over the phone.
  • Law enforcement will never ask for payment in the form of gift cards or bitcoin.
  • Don’t answer numbers you don’t recognize.