Overview of the Hotline
Financial exploitation and fraudulent scams aimed at older adults result in the loss of billions of dollars every year. These crimes often go unreported because victims are scared, embarrassed, or don’t know who to call. The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline (NEFH), funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, provides assistance to all adults ages 60 and older who may be victims of financial fraud. Since the NEFH launched in 2020, more than 40,000 calls have been received.
On the NEFH hotline, experienced case managers provide personalized support to callers, assessing the needs of each victim and identifying relevant next steps for reporting financial fraud. The NEFH operates Monday–Friday from 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. eastern time. Services are available in English, Spanish, and other languages. Callers may remain anonymous. For more information on the NEFH, and tip sheets and information on common scams, visit the NEFH website.
Calls/Topics the Hotline Addresses
Callers ask NEFH staff a wide variety of questions. Most callers report a scam attempt via phone, internet site, or email, with many experiencing a financial loss because of the scam. And many hope that the information will get to the proper authorities and the fraud will be investigated. Some of the most common types of scams are romance, sweepstakes, government imposter, and tech support scams. Although helping callers report financial fraud is our primary focus, the NEFH also receives:
- calls about suspected scam calls or emails asking for clarification about solicitations and suspected scams;
- reports that personal information was potentially stolen when a phone, computer, or other electronic device was compromised, including requests for options to address their situation when the caller feels as if they have exhausted other resources; and
- discussions about a situation experienced years ago that the caller may now be realizing was a scam or fraud.
While the NEFH is dedicated to serving older adults who have experienced financial fraud or scams, they will speak with anyone seeking education on scams, the steps for where to report, or concerns they have for an older adult in their community.
What Happens After a Call Comes In?
NEFH staff will work with the caller to determine the issue the caller wants to report. While the Hotline does not do investigations, NEFH staff will assess the caller’s situation and identify appropriate reporting agencies for the caller and assist them in reporting or connect callers directly with the appropriate agency, such as FBI, local law enforcement, FTC, APS, etc. Staff also provide resources and referrals to other applicable services, as needed. When appropriate, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center for internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.
Impact of the Hotline
When a fraud or scam is reported within the first one to three days, it can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The NEFH has spoken with callers who were connected to the appropriate reporting agency within a few hours or days of the fraud occurring and were able to stop the wire transfer or transmission of money before it reached the fraudster.
Callers have reported positive experiences with compassionate, knowledgeable, and trauma-informed case managers at the Hotline who have experience working with older adults and an array of financial fraud scenarios. For many callers, having someone to listen and provide clear and accurate options for next steps helps with the emotional toll of the fraudulent situation and empowers them to take steps toward regaining control.
Some callers express that they are unable to speak with their family or friends regarding the fraud due to shame or embarrassment. The NEFH serves as a neutral third party for callers to discuss their situation where there is no judgment. The NEFH also empowers callers to be able to identify attempted scams or fraud in the future by mentioning the tactics used by fraudsters. Some callers save the NEFH number and reach back out later or give the number to others who suspect they are experiencing a fraud or scam.
Tips for Identifying a Scam
There are many red flags that might signal that an interaction is fraudulent. This includes being pressured to send money, threats of law enforcement action if one doesn’t comply, asking for gift cards, cryptocurrency, or requests to deposit a check but then send the money elsewhere. For more information, please see the NEFH page or visit the Federal Trade Commission page on how to spot, avoid, and report scams. Keep in mind:
- No United States government agency accepts or requires payment via gift card.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will never initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information.
- Persons claiming to be from the Social Security Administration who threaten to suspend your social security number, warn of arrest or legal action, demand immediate payment, or promise to increase your Social Security benefit are scammers.
How the Hotline Can Be Useful to Adult Protective Services
The NEFH serves as a resource for victims, family and friends, and victim service professionals to help identify and connect them to appropriate resources and reporting agencies. NEFH staff hear from service providers, including adult protective services (APS), who would like more training and resources on scams or fraud, information about where their clients can report these crimes, and guidance on how to handle specific situations their clients are experiencing. In states where APS may not investigate financial fraud and exploitation, the NEFH is a resource for APS professionals who may be looking for guidance to pass along to a client or who want to provide their contact information as a referral.
In sum, the NEFH is grateful for the services and partnership afforded by APS professionals across the nation. Together, APS and the NEFH can offer tools, support, and resources to victims of fraud aimed at older adults.
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