Americans older than 60 lost $3.4 billion to scams in 2023: FBI

There was a 14% increase in complaints filed by elderly victims, the FBI said.

April 30, 2024, 1:17 PM

People older than 60 lost more money in scams in 2023 than the previous year -- an 11% increase totaling more $3.4 billion overall, according to a new report released by the FBI on Tuesday.

Commonly known as "elder fraud," financial crimes against seniors totaled $3.4 billion in 2023, up from $3.1 billion in 2022, according to the FBI's 2023 "Elder Fraud Report."

There was also a 14% increase in complaints filed with the FBI by elderly victims. There were 101,068 complaints filed by people over the age of 60 in 2023 compared to 88,262 in 2022, the FBI data show. The average dollar loss was $33,915, and 5,920 people lost more than $100,000, according to the FBI.

The FBI says only about half of the more than 880,000 complaints received by its Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2023 included age data.

This past year, like in 2022, tech support fraud was the No. 1 crime type impacting complainants older than 60. Tech support scams, according to the FBI, usually involve scammers claiming to be support from a legitimate company and informing the victim of fraudulent activity or potential refund for a subscription service. The scammer tells the victim they have a refund for the victim, however, money can only be sent by downloading a software that allows the scammer to view the victim's bank account.

In this Feb. 2, 2018 file photo, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is displayed outside FBI headquarters in Washington.
T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The FBI data found that investment scams continued to be the costliest to the elderly in terms of financial losses suffered -- with losses totally more than $1.2 million in 2023. Tech support scams came in second for losses with more than $589,000.

James Barnicle, the head of the FBI's Financial Crimes Section, urged financial institutions to do more in protecting elderly from scams. He told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday, that once the transfer is made they are "hands off."

"We think financial institutions do need to do more, to take some level of fiduciary responsibility and help protect their customers from being victims -- especially in the elderly victim space," he said.

He also urged victims to report losses earlier, so that the FBI can attempt to recover the money quicker.

Across the United States, illegal call scams, which include people posing as fake government officials or fake customer support representatives, netted more than $700 million in 2023 -- with almost half of those victims above the age of 60.

Barnicle said some of the scams originate from call centers in India, Western Africa, Laos and Cambodia. He said the FBI is not only looking to educate victims of scams, but actually hold people accountable.

"We're looking to arrest people," Barnicle said. "We're going to work with law enforcement agencies around the world, in whatever jurisdiction has the best fit and can get hands-on in some countries. Maybe we can't get hands on an offender, but maybe our partners can, whether it's Australia or Japan or the United Kingdom -- so we're looking to arrest people."

Christopher Soyez, the assistant section chief of FBI Financial Crimes Section, said he was recently contacted by scammers, and when he didn't want to continue engaging with them, the conversation turned violent.

"The tone of the text messages took a real aggressive turn -- threats of violence to me and my family," he said. "There were some pretty graphic photos of what things that would happen to me. And he got pretty aggressive."

Soyez said it is a pattern they are seeing more and more from scammers.

"They were taking steps to really intimidate me ... and somebody -- especially an older American, my mother and my grandmother would have certainly been very terrified of this," Soyez said.