Scams Target Older Americans at an Alarming Rate


May 17, 2022



elder fraud

The number of elderly victims impacted by fraud has risen dramatically and the loss amounts are even more staggering. In 2021, over 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This represents a 74% increase in losses over 2020. Many of these member-targeted scams involve fraudulent wire transfers reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, specifically targeting your elderly members.

The issue of elder financial abuse is likely to continue to grow as an average of 10,000 Americans turn 65 a day, a pace expected to continue through 2030 when all baby boomers will be older than 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several reasons are attributed to why elder financial abuse or exploitation continues:

  • increased social media use by older Americans

  • seniors still have landline numbers listed in phone books, making them an easier target for telephone scammers

  • many seniors are baby boomers and they control a vast amount of wealth that is targeted by fraudsters

Tech Support Fraud

Tech Support Fraud is the most reported fraud among those over the age of 60 victims with 13,900 complaints from elderly victims who experienced almost $238 million in losses.

Tech support scammers continue to impersonate well-known tech companies, offering to fix non-existent technology issues or renewing fraudulent software or security subscriptions. However, in 2021, an increase in complaints reporting the impersonation of customer support, which has taken on a variety of forms, such as financial and banking institutions, utility companies, or virtual currency exchanges.

Many victims report being directed to make wire transfers, purchase large amounts of gift cards, or mail large amounts of cash via overnight or express services.

One recent trend has tech support fraudsters telling victims that their identity has been stolen resulting in unauthorized withdrawals from the victim’s credit union account. Several elderly members have fallen victim to this scam with one member losing over $600k when she wired funds as instructed. The fraudsters told the member there were unauthorized account withdrawals and that she needed to wire the funds from her credit union account to a protected investment account.

Another recent sophisticated elder abuse case, an elderly member was contacted by a fraudster posing as a bank employee (Bank A) where the member held an account. The fraudster told the member that her account at Bank A, as well as accounts the member had at other institutions including her account at a credit union, had been compromised.

This was a sophisticated scam that involved multiple fraudsters contacting the member, including one posing as an FBI agent. The fraudsters convinced the member that in order to protect her money, she needed to wire funds from her accounts at other institutions, including her credit union account, to her bank account and that the member must keep this as a secret while the FBI investigated the case.

The member was instructed to wire funds from her accounts at other institutions to her credit union account. She was then instructed to wire funds from her credit union to a third party, which turned out to be a digital asset firm to purchase cryptocurrency.

Elder financial abuse is a growing issue and Merck Employees Federal Credit Union has policies and procedures implemented to help identify and prevent financial exploitation of its members. New federal and state laws enable financial institutions to take an active role in trying to address fraud and scams that target older members.

Members should remember to employ these important mitigation tips:

  • Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you. If you receive a call about a computer problem, hang up. If you suspect something is wrong with your computer or believe the scammer obtained access to it, bring it to a reputable company for a malware check.

  • Don’t trust phone numbers provided in an email, voicemail, or popup ad. If you want to call the company, use the customer service number on their official website.

  • If you are asked to wire money from a recent deposit or overpayment, discuss the situation with a member service representative, trusted friend, or family member. Be truthful about the situation since many scammers direct you to lie about why you’re sending money.

All members are encouraged to reach out to the credit union if they are experiencing or think they may be experiencing financial abuse. The credit union has resources to help and can point members to the proper authorities to report any issues.

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