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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Joins Justice Department in Wide-Ranging Efforts to Protect Older Adults

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maine

PORTLAND, Maine: The Justice Department announced today the results of its efforts over the past year to protect older adults from fraud and exploitation. During the past year, the Department and its law enforcement partners tackled matters that ranged from mass-marketing scams that impacted thousands of victims to bad actors scamming their neighbors. Substantial efforts were also made over the last year to return money to fraud victims.

“We are intensifying our efforts nationwide to protect older adults, including by more than tripling the number of U.S. Attorneys’ offices participating in our Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force dedicated to disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This expansion builds on the Justice Department’s existing work to hold accountable those who steal funds from older adults, including by returning those funds to the victims where possible.”

“Maine has the highest percentage of older adults in the country,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee. “Last year, 475 senior Mainers reported being the victim of fraud, with losses totally more than $2.5M. We believe that actual losses are likely to be far higher as fear and embarrassment often keep seniors from reporting that they have been victimized by these cruel scams.”

As part of the District of Maine’s elder fraud efforts, it engages in outreach to the community and industry to raise awareness about scams and exploitation and preventing victimization. In September, the U.S. Attorney’s Office distributed a 30-second PSA about spotting elder fraud scams and a 45-second PSA about “grandparent scams” to law enforcement and senior-related organizations around the state to use to educate their local communities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will also distribute information directly this winter, beginning with the People Plus Senior Health Expo in Brunswick on October 20.

“Our goal is to educate Maine seniors about current scam tactics,” McElwee said. “The perpetrators are professionals and know just how to reach and convince their victims, using everything from technology to their love for their grandchildren to bilk them out of their hard-earned savings. Knowing how to spot the red flags is key but so, too, is knowing when and how to report a scam. We know that it is difficult to admit that you were fooled, but the fraud only stops when the perpetrators are reported and caught. If you or a loved one were the victim of a senior scam, you should never hesitate to call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 and reach out to your local law enforcement to report it.”

The Department of Justice announced that as part of its continuing efforts to protect older adults and bring perpetrators of fraud schemes to justice, it is expanding the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force by adding 14 new U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Expansion of the Strike Force will help to coordinate the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat largest and most harmful fraud schemes that target or disproportionately impact older adults.

In the past year, the Department has notified over 550,000 people that they may be eligible for remission payments. Notifications were made to consumers whose information was sold by one of three data companies prosecuted by the Department and were later victims of “sweepstakes” or “astrology” solicitations that falsely promised prizes or individualized services in return for a fee. More than 150,000 of those victims cashed checks totaling $52 million, and thousands more are eligible to receive checks. Also notified were consumers who paid fraudsters perpetrating person-in-need scams and job scams via Western Union. In the past year, the Department has identified and contacted over 300,000 consumers who may be eligible for remission. Since March of 2020 more than 148,000 victims have received more than $366 million as a result of a 2017 criminal resolution with Western Union for the company’s willful failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and its aiding and abetting of wire fraud.

Over the past year, the Department pursued cases against the perpetrators of “grandparent scams,” otherwise known as “person-in-need scams.” These scams typically begin when a fraudster, often based overseas, contacts an older adult and poses as either a grandchild, other family member or someone calling on behalf of a family member. Call recipients are told that their family member is in jeopardy and is urgently in need of money.

Reporting Senior Fraud: Reporting from consumers about fraud and fraud attempts is critical to law enforcements efforts to investigate and prosecute schemes targeting older adults. If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting or connect them with agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. [ET]. English, Spanish and other languages are available. More information about the Department’s elder justice efforts can be found on the Department’s Elder Justice website,

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Jana Spaulding
Public Information Officer, Contract
Tel: (207) 771-3232

Updated October 4, 2022

Elder Justice