Attorney General Ashley Moody Releases Cybercrime and Senior’s Guide

June 9, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Social Media

As May marks the Older Americans and Elder Law Month, Attorney General Ashley Moody released a guide to educate and warn senior citizens of the dangers of cybercrimes.

The guide lists the most common schemes against elderly Floridians online, along with helpful tips on how to spot, report, and avoid falling victim to an online scheme.

The following is a statement by General Moody:

“Florida is home to more than 4.2 million seniors. Cybercriminals often look for older targets or people they think are not very tech savvy. That is why I am releasing our new Cybercrime and Senior Guide to help educate older Floridians about common online schemes and how they can avoid falling victim. This is just another way we are working to build a stronger, safer Florida.”

This page will provide information from the Cybercrime and Seniors Guide and the annual FBI Elder Fraud Report, along with various fraud charges and their penalties in Florida.

Seniors and Cybercrime

According to General Ashley Moody’s Cybercrime and Seniors Guide, it is estimated that over 3.5 million seniors experience fraud or financial exploitation every year. In 2022, there were more than $3.1 billion lost due to senior fraud. This was an 84 percent increase from the previous year.

The guide explains that seniors are more likely to be the target of online fraud due to physical and mental impairments. Scammers target seniors by timing the scheme to take place around monthly pension or social security checks.

The most common places where senior scams take place are the following:

  • Dating Apps
  • Emails
  • Investment Apps
  • Online Advertisements
  • E-Commerce Websites
  • Phishing Messages
  • Robocalls
  • Social Media

FBI’s 2022 Annual Report on Elder Fraud

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) records the thousands of schemes that target seniors each year. The annual report recorded 88,262 elderly persons over 60 who fell victim to fraud. The average dollar lost per victim was around $35,101. Additionally, there were 5,456 elderly victims who lost more than $100,000 from fraud schemes.

In the 2022 overall state statistics, Florida ranks as the second highest state for elderly victims of fraud with an estimated 8,480 victims. Out of those victims, there was an estimated loss of $328,114,489 due to fraud.

Most Common Fraud Schemes on Adults 60+

The following lists the most common fraud schemes affecting victims over 60, according to the 2022 FBI Annual Report:

  • Call Center Fraud – There are two types of call center fraud: (1) tech and customer support, and (2) government impersonation. There were 3,425 victims of government impersonation fraud in 2022 resulting in $136,500,338 in losses. There were 17,810 victims of tech and customer support fraud in 2022 resulting in $587,831,698 in losses.
  • Investment Fraud – Complex financial crimes which usually start as low-risk investments with guaranteed returns. This can include fee frauds, Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, market manipulation fraud, real estate investing, and trust-based investing. There were over 4,500 victims reported in 2022 with a little less than $1 billion in losses.
  • Lottery/Sweepstakes/Inheritance – Scam that usually includes a call, email, social media notification, or mail offering congratulations for winning some lottery, contest, or sweepstakes the victim never entered. The victim may be told they have to pay taxes and fees upfront to claim the prize. There were 2,300 reports of this type of scam in 2022, with an estimated $70 million in losses.
  • Confidence/Romance Scams – This type of scam refers to when a person creates a fake persona or online identity to gain a victim’s trust, affection, or confidence. There were 7,166 reports of romance scams in 2022, resulting in almost $419 million in losses.
  • Extortion – The act of extortion is when a person demands something of value from a victim and threatens financial or physical harm if the demand is refused. Extortion can take place over email, through hitman schemes, government extortion, and sextortion. There were over 4,200 elderly victims of extortion in 2022, resulting in over $15.5 million in losses.
  • Non-Payment/Non-Delivery – Scam advertisements on social media also cause fraud to victims over 60. In 2022 there were an estimated 8,000 reports of non-payment or non-delivery scams where individuals ordered an item from a link and either never received it or received something entirely different. This type of scam resulted in over $51 million in losses.
  • Cryptocurrency – The IC3 received nearly 10,000 cryptocurrency scam complaints involving victims over 60. Cryptocurrency can include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, or Ripple. In 2022, cryptocurrency scams resulted in over $1 billion in losses.

Fraud Charges in Florida

When a person is accused of fraud, it means they have intentionally deceived another person for personal gain, or to cause the victim harm. Fraud offenses can vary in their type, but typically involve false representation, concealment of information, or manipulation of facts with the intent to deceive an entity or person. Fraud can occur in various contexts like financial transactions, contracts, insurance claims, or other scams.

In Leon County, the different types of fraud charges a defendant may face include the following:

  • Organized Fraud – Florida Statute Section 817.034 defines a scheme to defraud as a systematic, ongoing course of conduct to defraud another person or persons, with the intent to obtain property by false pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act. Penalties range from a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony depending on the amount of money defrauded.
  • Fraudulent Use of Possession of Personal Identification Information – Florida Statute Section 817.568 states that any person who willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal information without first obtaining that person’s consent commits a third-degree felony. A defendant could face a second-degree felony if they used a victim’s personal information and in doing so it resulted in $5,000 or more in fraud. If the value of services received, payment sought to be avoided, or the amount of injury or fraud is $50,000 or more, a defendant can face a first-degree felony.
  • Medicaid Fraud – Florida Statute Section 409.920 states that a person cannot knowingly make, aid, or abet in the making of any false statement or representation of material fact, by commission or omission, in any claim submitted to the agency or its fiscal agent or a managed care, services under the Medicaid program, or charge, solicit, or receive anything of value from a Medicaid recipient. Violations can result in a third-degree felony to a first-degree felony depending on the amount of money defrauded.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

When most people think of using criminal defense, they often only think of violent crimes. However, white collar crimes such as fraud can also result in harsh consequences. A conviction may lead to paying high-cost fines, being sentenced to prison or probation, or all the above. The best chance you have of protecting yourself and your future is by working with an experienced defense attorney in your area.

Don Pumphrey and his team have spent years representing those in Florida who are facing criminal prosecution. Our attorneys understand the nuances of the law and will do our best to get your charges lessened or dismissed while protecting your rights along the way. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website to receive a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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