The Fraud Examiner

DOJ Announces Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force
 

Ron Cresswell, J.D., CFE
Research Specialist, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners                                 


On June 13, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. In the announcement, Attorney General William Barr stated, “Fraud against the elderly is on the rise. One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes. The new Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will bring together the expertise and resources of our prosecutors, federal and international law enforcement partners, and other government agencies to better target, investigate, and prosecute criminals abroad who prey on the elderly at home.” Members of the strike force include the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch, the FBI, multiple U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Prior to the announcement of the strike force, the DOJ conducted massive elder fraud sweeps in 2018 and 2019. In February 2018, the DOJ announced the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history. The sweep involved more than 250 defendants from around the world, more than a million American victims and fraud losses of at least $500 million. The DOJ announced an even bigger elder fraud sweep in March 2019, involving more than 260 defendants and at least $750 million in fraud losses. During these operations, the federal government extradited fraudsters from Canada, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Poland.

 

The historic elder fraud sweeps revealed useful information about the types of foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. As a consequence, the new strike force will focus on the following three types of elder fraud schemes: mass-mailing fraud, tech-support fraud and telemarketing fraud.


Mass-mailing fraud

In the mass-mailing fraud schemes targeted in the sweeps, victims received letters that were personally addressed to them, contained professional-looking letterheads and appeared to come from legitimate sources. The letters falsely promised cash, valuable prizes or good fortune if the victim made a payment. The payments were usually called a “processing fee” or a “tax.” The fraudsters never sent anything of value to the victims who made payments, and, in fact, those victims were often targeted with additional payment requests.


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