DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OBSERVES THE 15TH ANNUAL WORLD ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS DAY
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan joined Attorney General William P. Barr and the entire Department of Justice in observing the 15th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The Department echoes voices around the world condemning elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our country and the world, but among those most severely affected by the threat of the novel virus are our senior citizens. During this time when seniors are most vulnerable and isolated from their families and loved ones by social distancing and quarantine restrictions, bad actors have immediately exploited this international tragedy to prey on the elderly through a whole host of scam and fraud schemes perpetrated via phone, mail, and internet. As the world takes this day to remember the elderly during these uncertain times, the Department of Justice remains relentlessly committed, through its department-wide Elder Justice Initiative, to prevent and prosecute fraud on America’s seniors.
The Department will aggressively prosecute fraudsters exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and targeting seniors offering them fake testing kits, fake treatments and cures, and fake help obtaining stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program Funds. On this day dedicated to recognizing our seniors, the Department of Justice sends a strong message that we continue the fight to keep seniors safe a top priority.
“Society should be measured by how well it protects its most vulnerable members, including our seniors which make up roughly 20% of Vermont’s population,” stated U.S Attorney Nolan. “Protection of the elderly is a deeply rooted American and Vermont ideal. My office will continue to devote special focus and investigative and prosecutorial resources to this goal. We will be ever vigilant during the pandemic, when bad actors use isolation and distancing to prey on the elderly. We aim to prevent this treacherous conduct before it occurs by raising awareness, and, to be clear, a bad actor who successfully exploits the COVID crisis to harm a Vermont senior (or attempts to do so), will be the subject of aggressive prosecution by my office, working with state and local partners.”
Earlier this year Attorney General Barr declared “Prevention and Disruption of Transnational Elder Fraud” to be an Agency Priority Goal, making it one of the Department’s four top priorities. The Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought federal charges in significant elder fraud cases in recent years, including prosecutions of three Canadian individuals who defrauded four elderly Americans of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, the Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office has engaged in significant community outreach focused on combatting elder fraud. For instance, last year, U.S. Attorney Nolan gave the keynote address at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Elder Financial Protection and Response Network Convening in Burlington, Vermont. The Convening, which the Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office helped organize, brought together Vermont stakeholders, public and private, committed to protecting the elderly from financial fraud. The Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office also has provided training and guidance on the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative, including through meetings of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team of Vermont (FAST) as well as through FAST’s Tri-State Conference in October 2019.
Major strides have already been made toward the Department’s goal to combat elder abuse:
- National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-FRAUD-11
Earlier this year Attorney General Barr launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline. Staffed by experienced case managers who provide personalized support to callers, the hotline serves to assist elders and caretakers who believe they have been a victim of fraud by reporting that fraud and providing appropriate services.
- Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force: Established in June 2019 to combat foreign elder fraud schemes, the Strike Force is composed of the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices along with FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel. Since its inception, prosecutors in Strike Force districts brought cases against more than 140 defendants.
- Annual Elder Justice Sweep: In March of this year, the Attorney General announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in department history. The Department, together with every U.S. Attorney’s office, charged more than 400 defendants responsible for over $1 billion in loss through fraud schemes that largely affected seniors.
- Money Mule Initiative: Since October 2018, the Department and its law enforcement partners began a concentrated effort across the country and around the world to disrupt, investigate, and prosecute money mule activity used to facilitate fraud schemes, especially those victimizing senior citizens. A “money mule” is someone who transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of or at the direction of another. Money mules may assist fraud schemes by receiving money from victims, many of them elderly, and forwarding the proceeds to foreign-based perpetrators. In 2019 actions were taken to halt the conduct of more than 600 domestic money mules, exceeding a similar effort against approximately 400 mules in the previous year. The Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office is an active participant in the Money Mule Initiative, coordinating with the FBI to disrupt this activity.
- Holding Foreign-Based Perpetrators And Those That flee The United States Accountable: Transnational criminal organizations are targeting our elder population in schemes including mass mailing fraud, grandparent scams, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, IRS and Social Security Administration imposter scams, and technical-support scams. As noted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged members of transnational criminal organizations who engage in financial exploitation of the elderly.
For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.