The U.S. Department of Justice launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline last March — and the phones are ringing. The hotline receives about 500 calls per month to the toll-free number, which offers help to people 60 and over who may have been victims of financial fraud.
Families, friends or service providers of people ages 60 and older can also call the number (833-372-8311) if they are worried about a loved one or patient.
Financial scams were rampant in 2020. People lost more than $150 million to income scams last year as bad actors capitalized on people’s economic insecurity and anxiety around COVID-19.
Reasons for the calls to the DOJ hotline varied. Some were for romance scams, which occur when bad actors pose as a potential love interest and ask for money or pricey gifts. Others were sweepstakes scams, a form of fraud that involves a con artist telling a victim they won a prize that doesn’t exist. The catch: The person has to pay to get it. And though fraud rose in 2020, some calls were for scams that may have occurred years ago.
The DOJ hopes the hotline helps crack down on these scams in the future. Experts urge people to call the hotline or report the fraud to authorities such as local police or the state attorney general, as soon as it happens. The quicker authorities learn about it, the more likely a victim is to recoup any financial losses.
If you need to call the hotline to report a potential incident of fraud, here’s what you need to know: