Voice of the consumer: Con artists targeting the elderly

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (The Gazette) - 11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

The government is cracking down on scammers targeting the elderly. Over the past year alone, con artists stole more than $750 million from more than 2 million Americans, and charges were filed against more than 260 people worldwide, reports the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a news release last week. “Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history.”

I’ve warned you about scams like these. You might remember Lea’s story. “I opened up the email, and then I closed it,” said Lea, a Colorado Springs resident. “Then all of a sudden, this pop-up screen with red came up and it said, ‘Call this number because you might have a virus on your computer.’”

She called. “They said, ‘We’re Microsoft.’ He said, ‘You have a virus on your computer, and we need to scan it,’” Lea said.

Unfortunately, she gave the scammers remote access to her computer. It’s part of the “tech support” or “Microsoft” scam.

Another man told me he was using his iPad when he got a pop-up saying he needed to call a 1-800 number to fix an issue with his tablet. He called, and the scammers asked him for hundreds of dollars to fix the problem. “They said, ‘You have a problem with your iPad, and we need to have your IOS number so we can look into your computer and find out exactly what the problem is,’” the man told me. He hung up, and the scammers didn’t score.

Those are only two examples of the dozens of calls I get from KKTV viewers being scammed. It’s happening at an alarming rate. From 2015 to 2018, consumers 60 and older filed more reports to the Federal Trade Commission about losing money to tech support scams than any other fraud category.

“We’ve dedicated additional resources to address a wide range of elder fraud threats, including technical-support fraud,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the news release. “Victims of these schemes often lose thousands of dollars or more apiece, which can cause significant harm to elderly victims and their caretakers. If anyone suspects that they — or a senior they know — may be a victim of fraud, we encourage them to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.”

Access the Internet Crime Complaint Center by clicking at ic3.gov/default.aspx. Or call 877-382-4357 (FTC-HELP) or visit FTC.gov.

Don’t click on pop-ups, and watch out for fake websites. If you’re worried that something might be wrong with your computer or phone, take it to a trusted company. And please warn your family and friends about tech support scams.

Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.