AARP Eye Center
About 500 calls per month are coming into the National Elder Fraud Hotline, launched in March, which offers free help to people age 60 and older who may have been victims of financial fraud.
Part of the U.S. Department of Justice, the hotline may be reached by calling toll-free 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). It was created by the department's Office for Victims of Crime. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. Translation services are available for non-English speakers.
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Paid staffers trained in elder abuse answer the calls, said Keely Frank, a case management shift supervisor for the Virginia-based hotline, who spoke during a webinar Thursday. Calls vary, she said, from romance scams to contractor fraud to computer tech-support cons to fake Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes.
Troubling complaint in 2020
A common complaint this year is known as the U.S. Marshals scam, Frank said. It's an impostor fraud: Crooks pose as federal marshals, court officers or other law enforcement officials and demand payment, for example, to avoid arrest or to post bail. Earlier this year both the Marshals Service and FBI issued an alert about the scam.
It's important to keep in mind that these bad actors do not always say they are from the Marshals Service; some lie and purport to be with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or another agency.
More key points about the National Elder Fraud Hotline:
• Friends, relatives and service providers — regardless of age — also may call if they suspect an older person has been victimized by financial fraud.
• Calls to the hotline are recorded, but callers may remain anonymous.
• Fraud cases are not investigated by hotline personnel. Staffers assist victims in filing official reports at the local, state and federal level, where probes may be launched. Often hotline staffers help victims make official reports to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the Federal Trade Commission.
The nature of the 500 calls a month, on average, vary, according to Frank. Some calls are about ongoing, years-long frauds and some pertain to frauds that happened “two years ago, 10 years ago, last week or earlier today,” she said.
Frank urges victims to report cases as soon as possible to the hotline and other authorities: local police, financial institutions, state attorneys general and, in the case of home contractors, state licensing boards. The prospects of a victim recovering financial losses are better if a report is made promptly, she said.
The National Adult Protective Services Association hosted the webinar. More about the hotline is available online.
Hotline shares more resources
Callers to the National Elder Fraud Hotline, a program of the Department of Justice (DOJ), also receive advice on next steps and additional resources including materials from:
• the Elder Justice Initiative, also part of DOJ.
• the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
• the National Center on Law and Elder Rights.