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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!

SAFE is very excited to partner with Good Judgment Open, a forecasting service run by Good Judgment Inc., the pathbreaking superforecasting firm. Through the wisdom of crowds, Good Judgment predicts future events, equipping corporate and government decision-makers with the benefit of foresight. And now we are marshaling Good Judgment’s skills in the fight against elder fraud!

The collaboration between SAFE and Good Judgment will focus on predicting something very specific: whether the dollar losses from three particular kinds of elder fraud scams – romance scams, business imposter scams, and investment scams – will decrease, stay the same, increase by a little, or increase by a lot. We chose these three types of scams because they are the elder fraud scams the FTC identified as having generated the greatest monetary losses in 2021. They are the FTC’s “Big Three” as it were. See the FTC’s most recent report here. And screenshot of the relevant data is right here:

Why try to predict this? In short, because it will give us a sense of the direction of elder fraud through 2022 and beyond. It will help us to anticipate answers to questions like: Will these three types of scams continue to wreak financial havoc through 2022 and beyond? Or will they become less common in a post-pandemic (and perhaps “less online”) environment? Will one of these three emerge as a clear “Public Enemy Number One” to victims of elder fraud? Through this collaboration, we hope to find out.

To generate the prediction, Good Judgment has posed a series of carefully phrased and very precise questions to its massive open online forum, using the FTC’s most recent elder fraud report as a baseline. You can take a look at Good Judgment’s precise questions, and the current results, at this link. You can even sign up to be a predictor yourself, and try your hand at forecasting.

What is the ultimate purpose of this project? Simple. Prediction is a tool that can help policymakers, enforcement agencies, and nonprofits anticipate what the future brings – how the elder fraud threat will evolve in the future. If we can have a clearer picture of how elder fraud scams might evolve in the near future – throughout 2022 and beyond – then we can all adjust accordingly. For instance, policymakers can shift the allocation of money and other resources to specifically address the scams they think will do the most damage. Enforcement agencies like the FTC, the FBI, and local police can prompt their busy personnel to be on the lookout for specific fraud types – better ensuring that hints of fraudulent activity do not go undetected. Nonprofit networks can inform caregivers and families who work with older adults each day, enabling them to be more alert to the most likely causes of trouble.

Here is another way of thinking about Good Judgment’s prediction capability and how it can be useful: prediction is a complement to other, preexisting, and more familiar tools. The annual reports produced by the FTC, FBI, and others are incredibly helpful. But they also have limits. One such limit is that annual reports, by their nature, are backward-looking. By the time they are released, their data is already stale – historical, rather than timely. At SAFE, we are trying to build upon the detailed information in these reports to provide more timely and forward-looking – and thus more actionable – intelligence about what the scammers might do next.

This should help everyone fighting against elder fraud to do it even better.

Good Judgment’s project will last through February of 2023. At that point, we will release our results and share them here. Stay tuned!

According to the FTC, in 2021 alone, older Americans reported more than $6.1 billion in financial loss due to fraud. While staggering, this sum may be just a tiny fraction of the true monetary costs. Among other independent reports, the National Council on Aging cites a TrueLink Report that found the actual losses could be as high as $36 billion per year.

But financial loss is only part of the story. Fraud victims suffer immeasurable human costs as well. And these costs often manifest in ways that are seldom discussed in law enforcement circles and underappreciated by the general public. According to Stacey Wood, a Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology at Scripps College, most fraud is actually committed by someone the victim knows – often a family member – creating emotional tension and deepening the pain of the loss. This in turn can lead to feelings of anxiety, a loss of trust in others, and depression. Depending on the nature of the fraudulent scheme, there can be additional impacts. Take for example scams in which the perpetrator pretends to be a potential romantic partner or new friend. In these scenarios victims can often develop genuine feelings, and even love, for the person who is defrauding them. So once the true nature of the fraud is revealed, victims don’t just suffer monetary loss but also endure the additional burden of losing a person they considered a romantic partner or valued friend.

The emotional damage from becoming a victim of fraud has serious long-term ramifications as well. In a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, a group of researchers found that fraud victims can suffer “major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, lower subjective health ratings, and increased functional somatic complaints.” The study also found that “financial abuse is associated with premature mortality and greater hospitalization.” These are very serious issues, and they go far beyond mere monetary loss.

There is also a question of stigma. The vast majority of elder fraud cases go unreported, and law enforcement professionals have long speculated that victims hesitate to report such crimes at least partly because of embarrassment or fear. According to a briefing by the National Center on Law and Elder Rights, many older adults fear that if they admit they’ve been duped by a scammer, they could end up in a nursing home or lose control of their finances.

Victim stigma is a real issue, and we will cover it more in future posts. For now, it is worth it for us to acknowledge the human cost of fraud, and look past the headline numbers and to see the impacts on the people we love and care about.

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