U.S. Attorney’s Office Promotes Elder Justice Initiative With Live Interactive Telephone Town Hall
HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania promotes the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative throughout the Middle District, announced U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam. On September 27, 2022, the Middle District partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and AARP Pennsylvania to raise awareness and to educate older adults about the latest financial scams, so they do not fall victim. Approximately 4,000 seniors in the Middle District participated in the interactive telephone town hall as part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative.
Scammers are targeting seniors at an alarming rate. Statistics collected by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center show that victims of all ages lost approximately $6.9 billion dollars to fraud in 2021, with 92,371 victims over the age of 60 accounting for $1.68 billion of those losses. According to the same statistics, in Pennsylvania, over 17,200 people lost over $207 million dollars, putting Pennsylvania in the top ten states by number of victims.
“The elder fraud cases the FBI investigates are simply infuriating,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Anyone who targets vulnerable older folks for their assets lacks both a heart and a moral compass. The FBI will continue working to shut down these types of schemes and to educate the elders of our community about common fraud red flags.”
“Report, report, report. That's a good lesson for everybody on the line,” AARP Pennsylvania Consumer Issues Task Force Chair Mary Bach told listeners. “If you think you're the victim of a scam, you should contact the proper authorities." She also noted AARP’s commitment to helping those who think they’ve been the victim of a scam. “Scam artists are out there looking for new ways to scam their next victims, but you can protect yourself … Visit AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork or call the AARP Fraud Watch Help Line at 1-877-908-3360.”
The DOJ Elder Justice Initiative aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educating older adults on how to identify scams and avoid getting ripped off by scammers; and promoting greater coordination with law enforcement partners.
Some examples of financial frauds targeting seniors discussed during the town hall were:
- Social Security impostor schemes: defraud victims by posing as Social Security Administration agent and claiming that there is an issue with the victims’ account;
- IRS impostor schemes: defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes;
- Lottery phone scams: callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;
- Romance scams: lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;
- Grandparent scams: convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;
- Tech support scams: scammers offer assistance with viruses or malware they claim were detected on the victim’s computer; and
Below are some tips shared with participants during the town hall on how to avoid falling victim to a financial scam:
- Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know.
- Don’t pay a fee for a prize or lottery winning.
- Don’t click on pop-up ads or messages.
- Don’t send gift cards, checks, money orders, wire money, or give your bank account information to a stranger.
- Don’t fall for a high-pressure sales pitch or a lucrative business deal.
- Delete phishing emails and ignore harassing phone calls.
- If a scammer approaches you, take the time to talk to a friend or family member.
- Keep in mind that if you send money once, you’ll be a target for life.
- Remember, it’s not rude to say, “NO.”
- A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
In case you missed the Telephone Town Hall, you can view the recording via audio stream Vekeo.
Attacking exploitation and fighting fraud are two priorities of the Middle District, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to aggressively pursuing individuals who engage in such acts. Some recent prosecutions include:
The Middle District of Pennsylvania prosecuted Itcace Abramovici, a 72-year-old citizen of Canada, for his leadership role in a Montreal-based telemarketing and money laundering organization that targeted elderly victims in the United States, including those living in central Pennsylvania. Abramovici and his co-conspirators informed prospective victims that they had won a substantial amount of money in a lottery or sweepstakes and then directed those victims to send money in order to obtain their winnings. The victims’ payments were falsely characterized as taxes, customs fees, processing fees, and legal and insurance fees. None of the victims received any money, and many of their losses were substantial, with more than $460,000 in victim losses being attributed to Abramovici’s role in the fraud, and with losses to victims of the broader fraud at more than $1.3 million. Abramovici received a sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment on May 9, 2022.
The Middle District also charged five New York men, Josiah DeJesus, age 20, Jashua Noboa-Nival, age 20, Yeurys Peguero-Rosario, age 22, Ramon Peguero-Rosario, age 19, and Nelson Rivas-Bello, age 27, for their participation in a “Grandparent” mail fraud scheme. The indictment alleged that defendants traveled from New York to various locations in Pennsylvania, including addresses in Luzerne and Lackawanna County, and picked up UPS and Fed Ex packages containing thousands of dollars in cash sent by elderly victims under the false pretense that their grandchildren had been arrested and were in immediate need of money. The victims sent the money after receiving fraudulent phone calls made by the named defendants’ co-conspirators, who posed either as the victims’ grandchildren or as a public defender representing the victims’ grandchildren.
All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
If you think you have fallen victim to a scam or need assistance, you can contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311), the Victim Connect Hotline at 1-855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846), the FBI Internet Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 1-877-FTC-HELP. You may also contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network free helpline at 1-877-908-3360 to report a scam.
For more information about the Elder Justice Initiative, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
# # #