ST. LOUIS –– Many financial frauds abusing older consumers start with a phone call, email, text message or mailer, warns the Consumer Fraud Task Force. Scammers often target the elderly by pretending to be someone they trust, such as a family member, friend, business, government agency or law enforcement official.
Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency so their elderly target will make a quick decision before looking into the situation or request. They may use intimidation and scare tactics, such as claiming something terrible will happen if money isn’t given or sent. Or they may cultivate a friendship with the senior, hoping to gain their trust so they will hand over money, often by untraceable methods such as wire transfers or gift cards, to help with some fake crisis. For example, consumers made more than 1,000 reports about scams utilizing gift cards as a payment method in Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) ScamTracker in 2018.
More than 535,000 impostor scams were reported nationwide in 2018, and they are the top reported scams in Missouri and Illinois so far in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Database. The median financial loss in these cases was $500, and losses totaled $488 million in 2018.
The Consumer Fraud Task Force, formed in October 2002, is a coalition of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois that work together to protect consumer and donor rights and guard against fraud.
To obtain information or to report a scam, you may contact members of the Task Force:
Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern and Southwest Missouri and Southern Illinois – (888) 996-3887; www.bbb.org; bbb.org/scamtracker
Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice – (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); www.ftc.gov.
The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources through its Office of Victims of Crime at www.ovc.gov.
Missouri Attorney General – (800) 392-8222; www.ago.mo.gov.
U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri – (314) 539-2200; www.usdoj.gov/usao/moe.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service – (877) 876-2455; postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
U.S. Secret Service – (314) 539-2238; www.secretservice.gov.
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) – (314) 589-2500; https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.