Special to Iredell Free News

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina is warning residents about IRS imposter scams and other emerging and existing financial fraud schemes that target unsuspecting Americans, especially older adults. These scams often result in substantial monetary losses, causing financial hardship and emotional distress to individuals impacted by the fraud.

“On Tax Day, and as we head into the summer months, we want everyone to be vigilant about online scams and cyberthreats, particularly those that target older adults,” said U.S. Attorney Dena King. “From scammers posing as IRS agents to fake timeshare schemes, our best defense against fraud is education. … Through our outreach efforts, we also want to remove the stigma and embarrassment often associated with financial fraud and encourage the reporting of fraud. Alerting the authorities that you have been the victim of a scam can assist with initiating investigations, bringing criminals to justice, and recovering stolen funds. It also helps us keep track of trends, identify emerging schemes, and warn others.”

According to the FBI’s 2023 Internet Crimes Report, the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received a record number of complaints from the American public with potential financial losses exceeding $12.5 billion, a 22 percent increase compared to 2022. The report also indicates that North Carolina is ranked 13th both in the number of complaints filed with the FBI and in financial losses sustained due to online schemes and financial fraud. Individuals 60 and above filed the most complaints (101,068) and sustained $3.4 billion in losses, the highest among all groups. The report further indicates that tech support scams continue to impact older adults disproportionately, accounting for half of all the financial losses of online schemes. In addition, government impersonation, phishing, romance scams, and non-delivery schemes continue to cost millions in losses for the 60+ population.

Scams Targeting Older Adults

Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a warning indicating alarming reports of fraudsters impersonating SSA OIG agents. In this latest iteration of government imposter scams, fraudsters request victims to meet them in person to hand off cash. Variations of the scam include fraudsters posing as IRS agents demanding money for unpaid taxes, as sheriff’s office deputies threatening arrest for purported outstanding fines, and as prosecutors or court personnel threatening with prosecution or jail time for failing to comply with jury duty service.

Common Scams

Additional examples of financial fraud targeting older Americans are:

♦ Tech Support Scams – Convince victims to pay for non-existent problems with their computers.

♦ Non-Delivery Scams – Induce victims to pay for goods or services online, but never receive them. A variation of this scheme is victims receiving emails or texts messages that appear to be from legitimate shipping companies (e.g., UPS, FedEx) with fake non-delivery notifications, claiming that payment or additional personal information is required to complete a package delivery.

♦ Romance Scams – Lull victims into believing they are in an online romantic relationship and their paramour needs money to pay for a visit to the U.S. or for some other purpose.

♦ Grandparent Scams – Dupe victims into thinking that their grandchildren or other relatives are in trouble and need money right away for bail or another emergency.

♦ Charity Scams – Solicit donations for fake charities, or by altering or “spoofing” caller IDs to show the name of a real charity on the phone.

♦ Lottery Scams – Scammers use phone calls, letters, or emails to convince victims that a large fee or taxes must be paid before they can receive lottery winnings.

♦ Debt Collection Scams – Victims are threatened with arrest and jail time if payment for a fake debt is not made immediately.

♦ Money Mule/Money Laundering Scams – Convince victims to use their existing or new bank accounts to quickly move funds in and out of those accounts. Generally, the transferred funds are proceeds of other criminal schemes (such as romance schemes) and victims are unwittingly being used to launder the ill-gotten funds.

♦ Timeshare Scams – Fraudsters target timeshare owners with false promises of resale and exit from their timeshares for a fee.

♦ Sham Business Opportunities – Convince victims to invest in lucrative business opportunities or fake investments.

Protect Yourself

Here are some tips on how to avoid falling victim to a financial scam:

♦ Don’t share personal or financial information with anyone you don’t know.

♦ If the person asking the information claims to be a relative, a friend, someone you know, or a representative of a financial institution or government agency do not respond right away. Instead, contact the person/entity independently or ask a trusted family member or friend for help.

♦ Don’t pay a fee for a prize or lottery winning.

♦ Don’t click on pop-up ads, messages, or virus warnings.

♦ Delete phishing emails and ignore harassing phone calls.

♦ Don’t send gift cards, checks, money orders, wire money, or give your bank account information to a stranger or someone who claims to be a relative without verifying the person’s identity.

♦ Don’t fall for a high-pressure sales pitch or lucrative business deals.

♦ If you suspect fraud, take the time to talk to a trusted friend or family member.

♦ It’s not rude to say, “NO.”

♦ Keep in mind that if you send money once, you’ll be a target for life.

♦ A good rule of thumb is, if it’s too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.

And remember, there is no shame in falling prey to an online scammer. These are professional criminals that use tried-and-true tactics to perpetrate fraud.

To report elder fraud please call the Justice Department’s Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). If you believe you are the victim of a scam or have been contacted by a scammer, file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov or contact local law enforcement.