Criminals Defrauded Senior Adults of More than $1 Billion in 2020

Ken Clipperton
4 min readOct 27, 2021

Senior adults reported losses of more than $1 Billion to fraud in 2020. And according to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, the problem is getting worse each year. However, several cost-effective solutions are now available that enable senior adults to stay connected safely at home and when transitioning to new living situations.

According to the 2020 IC3 Elder Fraud Annual Report, more than 100,000 of America’s senior adults fell prey to fraudsters with an average loss of $9,175. Nearly 2,000 senior adults lost more than $100,000 each.

infographic from the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center showing 2020 losses of one billion dollars reported by senior adults

Many Crimes Go Unreported

As horrible as these numbers are, they likely represent only the tip of the iceberg because these numbers are based only on people who reported their losses to the FBI and identified themselves as being more than 60 years old. Many senior adults either remain unaware that they have been defrauded or are too ashamed of having been conned to speak up about it. Unfortunately, some are afraid to report having been victimized because of threats made by the fraudsters.

Common Paths Used by Criminals

Criminals use multiple methods to make the initial contact with their victims. These methods include a phone call, email, pop-up message, search engine advertisement, social media notification, a piece of mail, or even a knock on the door.

A phone call is often used to initiate several of the most commonly reported crimes perpetrated on seniors. You have probably received many of the types of calls listed below.

chart of types of crime where the phone is a major pathway

Loss of Phone Service Creates Social Isolation

Many families have felt forced into taking their senior family member’s phones away from them to protect them from fraudsters. Unfortunately, losing access to one’s phone increases social isolation and the devastating impact such isolation has on the health and well-being of older adults.

I started researching solutions to phone fraud after the parent of a close friend fell victim to scammers. Before I was able to find a solution, they ended up taking the phone away from their elderly parent. Happily, there are now several communication services that can dramatically reduce the likelihood of scammers reaching you or your loved ones.

Every Call to Your Home Phone Can Be a Good Call

Two systems that can be configured to allow inbound calls only from people on your contact list are teleCalm and Ooma Premier phone services. Calls from known bad guys and robocallers get blocked. Other callers are routed to voice mail without ringing the phone.

The above services work with existing home phones, replacing your old phone service with a router that connects via your broadband Internet service or a cellular network adapter. More good news. Not only can these solutions block the bad guys, but they may also cost less than the existing phone service.

An even more comprehensive solution is the GrandPad tablet computer. Grandpad makes it easy for senior adults to make audio and video phone calls (including Zoom) and communicate via email with trusted contacts. It also includes a set of apps designed for senior adults. The subscription includes cellular service integrated into the tablet, so it should work almost anywhere.

With any of these solutions in place, when the phone rings you can trust it is a good call.

Relief for Senior Adults and Caregivers

These simple-to-use technology solutions reduce the likelihood that senior adults will be scammed out of their life savings, reduce social isolation, increase the quality of life for senior adults and their caregivers.

All the solutions can make use of a companion app that enables a designated caregiver to manage the solution. For example, caregivers can see call histories, receive notifications of any new voicemail messages, listen to voicemails, add and remove contacts, etc. They can also receive notifications if the person they are caring for calls 911.

For More Information

I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to learn more about technologies that enable senior adults to stay connected safely at home and when transitioning to new living situations, please visit the Caregiver Technology Solutions website.

If you would like to receive free tips about staying connected safely at home delivered to your inbox by signing up for the Caregiver Technology Solutions email newsletter.

Resources:

1 2020 IC3 Elder Fraud Annual Report from the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2020_IC3ElderFraudReport.pdf

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Ken Clipperton
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Ken Clipperton is the founder of Caregiver Technology Solutions, a dba entity of Clipperton Technology Consulting Group, Inc.