Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks at White House Summit on Protecting Seniors
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Mr. President, thank you for convening this summit and for your commitment to protecting Americans of all ages, including those in their golden years.
Older Americans have so much to offer our country, but they also face special risks. In recent years, fraud directed against older Americans — especially over the Internet — has grown distressingly common. Seniors lose billions of dollars a year to these frauds, with the average reported individual loss exceeding 34,000 dollars. And many of the perpetrators are not fellow Americans, but transnational criminal organizations — ruthless cartels located overseas that steal hard-earned savings from some of our finest and most vulnerable citizens.
As the President has recognized, this has to stop. And his administration is stopping it. I’d like to highlight today three specific steps the Justice Department is taking to protect America’s seniors from fraud and abuse.
First, this month marks the one-year anniversary of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, which we created to target foreign-based fraudsters who prey on older Americans. Over the past year, the strike force has worked to dismantle the infrastructure these cartels need to operate, including the use of fraudulent robocalling. In January, we brought landmark civil actions to shut down some of the largest carriers of fraudulent robocalls. To give you a sense of scale, one of these companies allegedly carried 720 million calls during a sample 23-day period, reaching every state. After these cases, we saw a decline of billions of robocalls to consumers. Stopping the tidal wave of fraudulent robocalls was a critical step in protecting America’s seniors from fraud. Fewer calls mean fewer victims.
At the same time, we’ve also cracked down on the network of financial operatives — sometimes called money mules — who take money from seniors and send it back to their bosses overseas. The Postal Service has been an instrumental part of that success, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale is here to describe its efforts in more detail. We are proud of all the strike force has accomplished in its first year. But we’re just getting started, and we won’t be satisfied until we’ve put these foreign criminals out of business.
Second, I have asked the FBI and every U.S. Attorney’s office to prioritize elder fraud cases. That focus resulted in a record-breaking number of cases in this year’s Elder Fraud Sweep: 400 defendants charged for causing over one billion dollars in losses. And we are not going to let up, because we know fraudsters are working overtime during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is despicable that scammers are using a public health crisis to exploit seniors’ fears and steal their money. But we are watching, and we will bring them to justice.
Third, we are taking new steps to support victims of elder fraud and to help them rebuild their financial lives. We have established a toll-free National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-1-1. That’s like 9-1-1 for elder fraud. The hotline is staffed seven days a week by experienced case managers who can help victims get the resources they need. Studies show that older Americans are sometimes embarrassed to report fraud, but they should not be. The sooner fraud is reported, the better the chances of catching the perpetrator and recovering the victim’s money.
To support our efforts to help victims and crack down on fraud, I am pleased to announce today that the Justice Department is awarding a grant of nearly two million dollars to the National White Collar Crime Center. The grant will enable that respected nonprofit organization to work with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to help state and local law enforcement officers develop training and tools to combat elder fraud. Local law enforcement is on the frontlines in rooting out this serious crime, and they can count on a partner in the federal government.
Mr. President, thank you again for your commitment to keeping America’s seniors safe. The Department of Justice will continue to use all tools at our disposal to meet that important goal. Thank you.