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Recently SAFE analyzed the annual Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “Protecting Older Consumer” reports between 2017 to 2022, using a word count analysis to identify critical trends. One of the more interesting trends is that the FTC has increasingly incorporated race and ethnicity into its analysis of elder fraud.

When assessing the actual costs and trends in financial exploitation, the identity of the victim, including their race and ethnicity, matters. Older adults of color can be more susceptible to fraud for several reasons, including but not limited to a lack of access to anti-fraud tools, low financial resiliency, and sparse education on the matter. To ignore race and ethnicity is to ignore the true impact and on-the-ground reality of elder fraud.

Recognizing the importance of fraud victims’ race and ethnicity, the FTC has increasingly reported on the racial and ethnic dynamics of elder fraud. The FTC’s debut 2017-18 report utilized the language of “Black,” “Latino,” “AAPI”, and “Spanish” sparingly. In subsequent years, references to ethnic identifiers increased but notably rose within the 2020-21 and 2021-22 reports, exponentially increasing references to AAPI, Latino, and Black/African-American victims, as depicted in the chart below. In focusing on these racial and ethnic categories, the FTC managed to open up insights into how different types of fraud impact different communities. For example, Black older adults are less likely to be victims of Romance scams, according to FTC data. AAPI older adults are more likely to be victims of Government Imposters and Investment Scams, according to FTC data.

At SAFE, we commend the FTC for conducting this critical analysis, but it cannot stop there. The FTC should use these insights to adjust its enforcement practices too. In particular, the FTC should consider focusing its enforcement resources on frauds and scams that disparately affect racial and ethnic minorities, who can be among society’s most vulnerable.

Although more research is to be had, this new language has created optimism for the future visibility of the range of victims. We hope this language can make more precise predictions to complement pre-existing information. More posts will come to evaluate future FTC reporting. Stay tuned!

In December, we announced our collaboration with Good Judgment, the forecasting firm.

Research shows that the aggregation of many independent predictions – the so-called “wisdom of crowds” – can forecast future events better than any one individual’s assessment. Operating on this premise, Good Judgment has brought together hundreds of individual predictors on its massive open online forum, and frequently asks them to collectively predict social and geopolitical trends.

In December, SAFE asked this group of predictors to assess whether the three costliest elder fraud scams would continue to increase. And if so, by how much.

The results surprised us . . . to some extent. Good Judgment's forecasters predicted that the three top elder fraud scams -- as measured by total aggregate monetary loss (Investment Scams, Business Imposters, and Romance Scams) -- would result in increasingly large monetary losses. But interestingly, the forecasters predicted that losses from Romance Scams would increase at a slower rate. This means that in the FTC's 2022-23 report, Investment Scams and Business Imposters would be expected to surpass Romance Scams as the costliest of elder frauds.

There is a silver lining here. Just in time for Valentine's Day, Romance Scams could be on the wane, at least compared to other forms of elder fraud. And if there is anything we don't love, it's the scam artists who use the promise of affection to prey on older adults! Still, the overall trend is concerning. Losses from elder fraud will continue to increase in the coming years, and that should concern us all.

Here is the chart that traces Good Judgment's predictions:

Here is a little more detail from our recent intelligence bulletin:

According to forecasters, the losses attributable to business imposters and investment scams are likely to accelerate, while the losses attributable to romance scams will increase but at a slower rate than in past years. In particular, 98% of forecasters predicted investment scams would result in losses of at least $147M in 2022, with 55% predicting losses between $304M and $460M. Similarly, 99% of forecasters predicted business imposter scams would result in losses of at least $151M in 2022, with 78% predicting losses between $252M and $353M. By slight contrast, 95% of forecasters predicted romance scams would exceed $213M, with 64% predicting losses between $213M and $270M. Of note, these predictions suggest that both business imposter and investment scams will surpass romance scams (2021’s costliest fraud) in the FTC’s 2022-23 report on Protecting Older Consumers.

SAFE regards these results as largely confirmatory of current trends in the fraudulent narratives that fraudsters most often use. SAFE agrees that fraudsters will continue to use these three fraud types in attempts to prey upon older adults. SAFE cautions that while the rate of increase in monetary loss attributable to romance scams may slow, romance scams will remain one of the costliest, most prevalent, and most emotionally pernicious forms of elder fraud

Because prevailing fraudulent narratives are likely to remain broadly constant, SAFE recommends: Law enforcement agencies and advocates in the aging space should focus their energies on understanding the new and emerging media and other technologies that fraudsters use in perpetrating these common fraud types. Questions should include whether perpetrators are channeling their outreach to victims through mail, telephone, text, email, chat, or some other media. Questions should also include whether perpetrators have begun to leverage artificial intelligence, automated language translation, or other emerging technologies to enhance the credibility of the underlying narratives.

SAFE strongly encourages Americans to report elder fraud – even if they have not been fooled by or lost money to a scam. There are plenty of reasons to do so. If you report a scam, law enforcement agencies can do a better job at tracking and educating the public about the latest fraudulent schemes. After looking into your complaint, a federal or state agency might choose to sue or even prosecute the perpetrators. In some cases, these agencies may be able to recover stolen money and return it to victims. But where and how, exactly, should you report elder fraud?

Somewhat confusingly, there is no single government agency that handles elder fraud complaints. The best place to start is often the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which keeps tabs on elder fraud trends and often brings lawsuits against the scammers in an attempt to recover ill-gotten gains and return lost money to fraud victims. You can report elder fraud to the FTC here: And you can call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The FBI also plays a role in fighting elder fraud, particularly in cases where the victims are numerous and there is a large amount of money involved. You can contact the FBI at (202) 324-3000 or submit a tip to the FBI at Recently, the Department of Justice (of which the FBI is a part) created a series of elder fraud strike teams – devoted groups of special agents and prosecutors who tackle some of the biggest scams. Contacting the FBI can help bring your case to the attention of these strike teams. If your scam relates to the internet – for example, if the scam artist contacted you via social media or email – you can also contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center directly:

The FTC and FBI are federal agencies, meaning they have jurisdiction nationwide. But your state and local authorities can be just as helpful, if not more so, in addressing elder fraud committed in your community.

State attorneys general have broad civil and criminal enforcement powers and often have special programs to combat elder fraud. To make a complaint directly to your state attorney general’s consumer affairs division, start with this handy page, which is compiled by the National Association of Attorneys General:

Another way to contact your attorney general’s office is to call its main telephone line. Here is a frequently updated list of all state attorneys general and their contact phone numbers: State attorneys general are great clearing houses of information about law enforcement in your state. So even if they cannot help you directly, they are an excellent source of information about who is best to contact in particular cases.

In addition to attorney general’s offices, most states also have a department of consumer affairs – a kind of state-level FTC – responsible for bringing civil lawsuits and regulatory actions against perpetrators of fraud. Depending on your state, the powers of these departments can vary, and not all of them have a well-developed program to address elder fraud issues. Nonetheless, they can be an excellent resource. Here is a page that can help you pinpoint your own state’s version of such a consumer affairs department, complete with contact numbers:

If you’re thinking to yourself this is a veritable alphabet soup of agencies, you’re right! Many of SAFE’s leadership used to work at these agencies, at both the federal and state level, and we know the complexities of America’s law enforcement landscape can be confusing, and even frustrating, to navigate. Our most candid and practical advice is that you should try to reach out to multiple enforcement agencies to report elder fraud. In particular, be sure to report fraud to at least the FTC and a state agency such as your state attorney general or state department of consumer affairs. Each of these agencies has its own unique role in combating elder fraud, and reporting a scam to several agencies and two levels of government will maximize the chances that your complaint will be handled with the seriousness it deserves.

And finally, this post by no means lists all the agencies that have a stake in fighting elder fraud. For instance, local district attorneys often prosecute elder fraud scams and can be a tremendous help, particularly in cases where an instance of elder fraud includes an element of physical abuse, coercion, or threats. If the fraud involves a registered broker-dealer stealing from his or her client, then the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FINRA) may be a helpful organization to contact. And if the fraud involves a licensed professional like a lawyer or nurse, then it can also be productive to contact the relevant licensing authority like the state bar or nursing board. Yet even in such cases, the FTC and state attorney general or department of consumer affairs will still be your best starting point.

Remember, these agencies all work for you! Their goal is to make the world a safer and better place for all of us. Report evidence of elder fraud and together we can defeat this scourge!

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