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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Department of Justice has brought charges against hundreds of defendants who allegedly targeted people over 60.
Attorney General William Barr and other law enforcement officials say it’s the department’s largest ever nationwide crackdown on elder fraud schemes.
“This is a particularly despicable crime because — and it’s a massive and growing problem — it’s despicable because the people involved are vulnerable and because of their stage in life, they don’t have the opportunity, frequently, to recover,” Barr said.
In the past year, criminal and civil charges have been filed against 260 defendants.
“[The defendants] allegedly defrauded more than 2 million Americans of more than 3/4 of $1 billion,” Toni Bacon, DOJ national elder justice coordinator, said.
Officials say the scammers will target nearly anyone. Among their would-be victims was 95-year-old William Webster, the former head of both the CIA and the FBI.
“My husband received a phone call from someone claiming to be the head of a Mega Millions lottery,” Webster’s wife, Lynda, said. “The catch was Bill needed to send him $50,000 in cash to pay the taxes on the lottery.”
The caller’s tone soon went from solicitous to threatening.
“When I got on the phone, he basically said that he was going to kill me,” Lynda Webster said.
The caller was arrested in 2018.
“I feel so sorry for older people who get this good news of the money they’ve won, and they’re gonna be terribly disappointed,” William Webster said.
The Department of Justice says older consumers are more likely to fall for scams that involve computers and the internet because many aren’t tech-savvy enough to recognize them.