PHOENIX, Ariz. – Today, United States Attorney Michael Bailey 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 Department of Justice has made protecting America’s seniors a top priority, and our office shares that commitment,” said United States Attorney Michael Bailey. “Our seniors deserve to be treasured and treated with respect and care, not targeted by fraudulent schemes. We encourage you to call the hotline today if you suspect abuse. Let’s work together to protect our seniors.”
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 virus are our senior citizens. Bad actors have exploited this international tragedy to prey on the elderly, who are vulnerable and isolated from their families and loved ones by social distancing and quarantine restrictions, through a host of scams and fraud schemes. 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 by offering them fake testing kits and fake help obtaining stimulus and Paycheck Protection Program Funds. Just last week, attorneys from the District of Arizona partnered with the FBI and AARP to give a telephonic town hall about current COVID-19 scams around the country. The town hall was attended by well over a thousand callers from the state who had the opportunity to ask questions and learn tips for avoiding scams.
On this day, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, dedicated to recognizing our seniors who have been victims of scams and other forms of abuse, the Department of Justice sends a strong message that we will continue the fight to keep seniors safe. 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. In recognition of that goal, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona also collaborated with the Pima Council on Aging and the FBI in January to offer an informational talk on scams for older adults.
Major strides have already been made toward the goal of preventing and disrupting elder fraud:
- National Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-FRAUD-11
Attorney General Barr recently 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 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 sweep 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, causing over $1 billion in loss through fraud schemes that largely affected seniors, including 16 defendants charged in the District of Arizona.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
For more information on enforcement actions, training and resources, research, and victim services, please visit www.justice.gov/elderjustice.
RELEASE NUMBER: 2020-058_Elder Abuse Awareness Day
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For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/
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