On Tuesday, the FBI issued a warning to American seniors, thousands of whom fall victim to fraud schemes targeting the elderly every year.
One of those victims is an American hero who now wants to warn others who may be targeted.
William Webster served in World War II, the Korean War and as a federal judge, along with being a former FBI and CIA director. Unfortunately, a few years ago, he also became a member of a club no one wants to join.
“[I'm] glad it was me and not somebody that wouldn’t know what to do or how to deal with it,” Webster said.
Back in 2014, the now-98-year-old and his wife, Lynda, were targeted by a scammer in an ordeal the couple says all started with a phone call.
“It was a nice man, called himself David, started calling my husband. I politely once told him not to call back again and he continued to call back again,” Lynda said. “One time he got me at the house by myself and he said, ‘I know you have a white brick house. I know exactly where you live, and I’m going to have one of my snipers come and shoot your brains out.’”
The couple went to the police and the FBI, and eventually, that man pleaded guilty to extortion charges and was sentenced to nearly six years behind bars.
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Experts say their story is all too common. According to the FBI, every year, thousands of older Americans become victims of elder fraud schemes.
In 2021, people over 60 lost nearly $2 billion to such ruses. That’s why authorities enlisted Webster for a new campaign to alert elderly folks and their families.
“Get it to grandma, show it to grandpa. Show your parents, not just once, but repeat it over and over again,” Lynda said.
Here are four things you need to know if you think you’ve been approached by a potential scammer:
- Do a search online to verify any offer, and look up contact information.
- Resist pressure to act quickly, because criminals count on scaring victims into making hasty decisions.
- Never give or send identifying information.
- Be careful what you download.
“I think the message is, don’t buy it. In most cases, you should simply hang up,” the former soldier and director said.
If you think you or someone you know is a victim of this type of fraud, you can file a report online at tips.fbi.gov or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI. And remember, there is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
“These people are very clever and what they want to do is take our money,” Lynda said.