Financial scams targeting the elderly cost millions

The Justice Department announced Thursday its largest crackdown on scams that defraud the elderly. Since March of last year, charges against some 260 people have been filed in elder financial scams. The cases affected roughly 2 million Americans, with losses of an estimated $750 million.

Older Americans are often targeted, like 65-year-old Cathleen McInerney of Connecticut. Last November, a scam artist obtained her credit card number and other personal information, then tried three times to get cash advances off the card in amounts totaling $6,600.

Cathleen McInerney CBS News

“I felt such a invasion you know that someone had that information. It was a little unsettling, I would say,” McInerney said.

U.S. banks reported a record 24,454 suspected cases of elder financial abuse to the Treasury Department last year, more than double the amount five years earlier. Now some banks are giving their staff training.

At People’s United Bank headquarters in Bridgeport, Connecticut, employees learn why scammers go after older customers. VP Karen Galbo said bank employees can stop a scam in its tracks.

“If somebody is coming in and making large withdrawals that don’t normally take out a lot of money because they might be on a fixed income, say a Social Security income, could be a red flag for us,” Galbo said.

McInerney’s card was from People’s United, and an alert employee prevented the fraud. Even though we hear about scams coming from strangers, a government report this year pointed out victims lose more money in scams perpetrated by someone they know.

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