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Assailing the growing number of fraud cases that hit older Americans, the U.S. attorney general announced a new strike force Thursday to target and prosecute criminals and groups tied to elder-fraud schemes that originate in other countries.
"One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes,” Attorney General William Barr said in Department of Justice (DOJ) news release.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, whose agency is a partner, stated: “We're committed to keeping our elderly citizens safe, whether they're being targeted door-to-door, over the phone or online from thousands of miles away. If you think you may be a victim of elder fraud, or you know someone who is, please let us know,” Wray said. “We want to help."
Special focus for prosecutors in six regions
The effort involves prosecutors from U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Atlanta; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; and Tampa, Fla.
Other partners include the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission and private companies in the financial and tech-support sectors.
According to Barr, the strike force will attack the problem with data analysts and “sophisticated investigative” approaches and will work with foreign law enforcement. It will use “all available criminal and civil tools to stop victims from losing money and to hold wrongdoers responsible,” he said.
According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, as many as 1 in 10 Americans age 60-plus are abused or neglected every year. They fall victim to a range of transgressions, particularly financial scams, it said.
A decade ago, most fraud schemes DOJ investigated were based in the U.S., according to the report, but today it's rare to see a mass-marketed fraud scheme with no international component as crime groups use mass mailings, the phone and internet either to make money or to facilitate other crimes.