Last week in federal district court in Fort Pierce, a South Florida caretaker admitted that she committed bank fraud and aggravated identity theft when she used the private financial information of two seniors in her care to steal the couple's money.
The defendant worked as a caretaker for the Broward County elderly couple from 2016 through 2019 and had access to the couple's bank accounts to assist them with paying their monthly bills. She used that access to embezzle approximately $300,000 out of the victims' bank accounts without their knowledge or consent by forging their signature on several checks made payable to herself, her family members, and her creditors. The defendant also transferred money electronically from the victims' bank accounts to her own and made electronic payments from the couple's accounts to numerous credit card accounts belonging to her and her husband.
She faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years on the bank fraud charge and two years on each of the aggravated identity theft counts, for a total possible sentence of 34 years.
Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. The mission of the Department's Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) is to support and coordinate the Department's enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation's seniors.
According to the EJI, these are some of the most common scams affecting older adults:
Social Security Administration Impostor Scam
Social Security Administration imposters contact prospective victims by telephone and falsely claim that the victim's Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity, or because it has been involved in a crime. They ask to confirm the victim's Social Security number, or they may say they need to withdraw money from the victim's bank and to store it on gift cards or in other unusual ways for “safekeeping.” Victims may be told their accounts will be seized or frozen if they fail to act quickly.
Tech Support Scam
Fraudsters make telephone calls and claim to be computer technicians associated with a well-known company or they may use internet pop-up messages to warn about non-existent computer problems. The scammers claim they have detected viruses, other malware, or hacking attempts on the victim's computer. They pretend to be “tech support” and ask that the victim give them remote access to his or her computer. Eventually, they diagnose a non-existent problem and ask the victim to pay large sums of money for unnecessary – or even harmful – services. Tech Support Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules (including legitimate-seeming businesses registered in the U.S.) to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
Fraudulent telemarketers based in other countries are calling people in the U.S., telling them that they have won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. The fraudulent telemarketers typically identify themselves as lawyers, customs officials, or lottery representatives, and tell people they have won vacations, cars or thousands — even millions — of dollars. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties, or taxes before they can claim their prizes. Victims pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and receive nothing in return, and often are revictimized until they have no money left. Lottery Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
IRS Impostor Scam
IRS Imposter Scams are aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a wire transfer or stored value card such as a gift card. Victims who refuse to cooperate are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver's license. IRS Imposter Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators.
Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist. Romance Scams operating from abroad often use U.S.-based money mules to receive victim payments and transmit proceeds to perpetrators. Sometimes, perpetrators of Romance Scams convince victims to serve as money mules, receiving illegal proceeds of crime and forwarding those proceeds to perpetrators. For example, Romance Scam victims often are induced to receive payments and/or goods such as technology equipment procured through fraud and to forward those payments and goods directly or indirectly to perpetrators.