What's being done to crack down on scams against the elderly?

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 11:31:17-04

An 87-year-old woman is out more than $1,000 and she's trying to figure out who's helping to stop scams on the elderly. The Shaker Heights woman said no one raised any red flags after she bought $1,900 worth of iTunes gift cards at a local store.

"These are the ones that (the scammers) got,” said Bea Muller as she showed us the dozens of iTunes gift cards she bought. Some were $50s, $100s and there were a ton of $10s.

It started with a phone call. Scammers got control of her computer and, to fix it, they asked for the $1,900 in cards from a nearby Walmart.

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Muller said no employee intervened. "Wouldn't you think they'd question me?"

We went to the Walmart in South Euclid. On the gift card island near the pre-paid cards, there's a sign warning customers about scams but if you head directly to the iTunes column there is no warning.

Walmart said, in part- "…we frequently review our educational and prevention measures..." On the phone, the rep told us this problem will be addressed at that store.

But what else is being done about scams popping up around the globe? Federal investigators told us they are popping in their own actions.

"(When we get consumer tips) we know who our targets are,” said Fil de Banate from the Federal Trade Commission office in Cleveland. He said the agency is making headway through "Operation Tech Trap" launched in May.

"We have stopped a number...really dozens of fraudulent businesses here in the U.S.,” said de Banate. “We have gotten some money back for consumers."

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There have been seven indictments in Illinois with two people pleading guilty there. A recent case involved the review of 800 consumer complaints.

“I cannot emphasize it enough,” said de Banate. “Consumer complaints is one of the main reasons we find out about these kinds of scams."

It might feel like nothing is being done right away and de Banate gets consumer frustration. "It takes some time to build our cases and without those consumer complaints, we can't even start,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Muller is getting more scam calls. "You just think where are they coming from? How can they possibly do this?"

The FTC said international scammers are harder to get to, but the agency is making progress.  The agency reports many scam calls come from India and just recently there were two major arrests in India thanks to cooperation from Indian authorities.

To report a scam: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357)