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Elders targeted by cyber crooks, but they can fight back

By Greg Mellen, Behind the Badge

Photo by Tristan Le

When Keniel Thomas got the nonagenarian on the phone, he may have thought he hit the jackpot.

But this was no normal 90-something-year-old. The intended mark was William Webster, the former director of the FBI and CIA.

The Jamaican scammer launched into the “lottery scam,” in which the crook tells the intended victim they have won a contest. To claim the prize, all the person must do is pay fees on the winnings.

Simultaneously, Webster began thinking of ways he could bring the crook to justice. He later released a video to alert elders to the dangers.

The lottery scam, along with similar schemes such as the grandparent scam, the romance scam, the tech support scam, and cryptocurrency scams, are just a few of the online frauds targeting the elderly.

According to the FBI’s 2022 Elder Fraud Report, over $3.1 billion was reported lost to scammers in 2022, representing an 84 percent increase in reported losses from 2021. That is only a fraction of actual losses. A 2016 survey by Stanford and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, found “only 14 percent of victims reported incidents to local law enforcement or a federal or state reporting agency.”

SafeOC, Orange County’s award-winning public safety website, is constantly updated to keep internet users informed and ready in response to the growth in fraud and internet crime that threaten financial security.

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