Former FBI Director Targeted, Warns Others

Featured, National

Former FBI Director William Webster, pictured with his wife, Lynda, speaking during an elder fraud press conference. | FBI Image

Former FBI and CIA Director William Webster posted a video online hoping to prevent other older adults from being defrauded online.

“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” Webster said in a video message that urges older people and their loved ones to be wary of elder fraud schemes.

According to the FBI, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported $1.7 billion in losses to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in 2021. This represents a 74% increase in losses compared to 2020.

“You’ve worked hard. You’ve saved,” Webster said. “Don’t let criminals try to take that away from you. If you or a loved one have been affected by elder fraud, contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit ic3.gov to file a complaint.”

Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They are also likely to have financial savings, a home, and good credit, making them appealing to scammers.

Millions of elderly Americans are victims of financial fraud or deception every year, including romance, lottery, and sweepstakes scams, to name a few. Criminals will gain the trust of their targets and may communicate with them directly via computer, phone, and mail, or indirectly via television and radio. Because of the possibility of significant financial gain, scammers are likely to keep a scheme going once it is successful.

Furthermore, seniors may be less likely to report fraud because they do not know how or are too embarrassed to admit they have been duped. They may also be concerned that their relatives will lose faith in their ability to manage their finances. Furthermore, when elderly victims report a crime, they may be unable to provide detailed information to investigators.

Here are some ways the FBI shares that you can protect yourself:

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to you or a loved one.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Ensure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date.
  • Disconnect from the Internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Perpetrators regularly use pop-ups to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • If a criminal gains access to your device or account, immediately contact your financial institutions to place protections on your accounts. Monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact an FBI office at 713-693-5000 or submit a tip online at fbi.gov/tips or file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

When reporting a scam — regardless of the dollar amount — include as many of the following details as possible:

  • Names of the scammer and the company
  • Dates of contact
  • Methods of communication
  • Phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and websites used by the perpetrator
  • Methods of payment
  • Where you sent funds, including wire transfers and prepaid cards (provide financial institution names, account names, and account numbers)
  • Descriptions of your interactions with the scammer and the instructions you were given

You are also encouraged to keep original documentation, emails, faxes, and communications logs.

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