FBI teaches older SoCal residents best ways to protect themselves from online, phone scams

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Thursday, August 17, 2023
FBI teaches SoCal seniors about online, phone scams
The FBI is helping to teach local senior citizens how to keep scammers from taking advantage of them.

WEST COVINA, Calif. (KABC) -- Seniors at East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center in West Covina usually spend their Wednesdays socializing in music class.

But this time, they put their dance moves on pause to learn about elder abuse fraud.

"It's really hard for them to spot what these scams look like, especially if you don't use the computer a lot or get on the internet," said Tony Tang, program director at the community center.

He said they've partnered with the FBI to teach seniors about these types of scams that often target them.

"I think it's extremely important for us to get in front of them to reiterate that it's important to safeguard yourself," FBI Special Agent Brad Pesek said.

"It's important to protect yourself. It's important to ask those questions as to who are you? Why do you want to do this? Because they worked hard for what they have and they should be able to maintain it."

A woman at the center who didn't want to reveal her name said she's received phone calls from scammers in the past claiming she won a prize.

"I didn't answer but they left a message, and I listened to the message," she said. "It was almost unintelligible except for a few words. They left a phone number."

FBI data over the last five years shows the number of fraud victims over 60 who have reported to them has dropped from over 100,000 in 2020 to 88,000 last year.

However, the dollar amount of losses spiked 84% from 2021 to 2022, to $3.1 billion.

Pesek said the number of victims and amount loss could be much higher because these crimes often go unreported.

"These people want to draw you in. They want to build trust," he said. "They want to gain information on what they don't know."

The FBI said two easy things seniors can start doing right now to keep them safe is do not answer phone calls from numbers you don't recognize and don't click on links in emails that look suspicious.