Elderly Pa. residents were scammed out of millions last year, report says

By Ashley Adams

May 10, 2024

More than 3,000 Pennsylvanians aged 60 and older lost more than $117 million to fraud schemes in 2023.

With advances in technology and numerous social media platforms, scammers looking to steal money from a victim have plenty of avenues to use interesting and often confusing ways to get the job done.

And those who most commonly fall prey to these scams are the elderly.

According to a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Internet Crime Complaint Center, there were more than 101,000 fraud complaints from adults age 60 and older (an age group classified by the F.B.I. as elderly) nationwide in 2023, with losses totaling close to $3.5 billion. That total represents an increase of about 11% from 2022.

In Pennsylvania, there were more than 3,000 elder fraud complaints filed last year, with losses totaling more than $117 million. The commonwealth ranks seventh in the nation for elder fraud complaints.

The average amount lost by each victim in Pennsylvania was $38,741, nearly $5,000 higher than the national average of $33,915.

And the impact of elder fraud is likely greater than the report shows. Many of these crimes go unreported, and, as the report states, “only about half” of the fraud scam complaints submitted in 2023 included the victims’ ages.

The most common types of elder fraud include:

Call center fraud: Tech and customer support/government impersonation

Thousands of people each year fall victim to illegal call center frauds, tech and customer support scams, and government impersonations. Last year, older adults reported more than $1.3 billion in losses.

Tech support scams were the most widely reported kind of elder fraud in 2023. Nearly 18,000 elderly victims reported such scams nationwide. Tech support scams are when a scammer poses as a technical or customer support service representative to defraud a victim.

In a government impersonation scam, a scammer impersonates a government official in an attempt to collect money.

Investment

Investment frauds involve complex financial crimes often characterized as low-risk investments with guaranteed returns. Examples of investment frauds include advance fee frauds, Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, market manipulation fraud, real estate investing, and trust-based investing such as cryptocurrency investment scams. More than $1.2 billion was lost to these types of fraud last year.

Most investment scams are socially engineered and trust-enabled, usually initiated through a romance or confidence scam. Scammers often target victims using dating applications, social media platforms, professional networking sites, or encrypted messaging applications. Scammers use fictitious identities to develop relationships and establish rapport with their victim.

Confidence or romance scam

In 2023, almost $357 million nationally was lost to confidence and romance scams.

Romance scams often occur when a scammer adopts a fake, online identity to gain the victim’s affection or confidence. They use the illusion of a romantic relationship to manipulate and steal from their victim.

Another type of confidence scam is what’s known as the Grandparent Scam, which is when a scammer impersonates a panicked loved one, usually a grandchild, nephew, or niece of an elderly person and claims to be in trouble and needs money immediately. Last year, approximately $2.3 million was lost to Grandparent Scams.

Cryptocurrency

More than $1.1 billion was lost to cryptocurrency scams last year. Scammers convince the victim to withdraw large sums of cash and deposit into cryptocurrency ATMs or kiosks at locations provided by the scammer. Once cash is deposited and converted into cryptocurrency, the scammer transfers it to other cryptocurrency accounts.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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