Sweepstakes fraud is perhaps the best known of so-called mass marketing schemes - including investment scams and other money fraud by mail, phone or e-mail - costing consumers more than $3.4 billion between 2001 and 2006, according to the FBI.
Last year, it was the secondmost common type of telemarketing fraud in the United States, according to the National Consumers League.
"More than half of the scams that are geared toward seniors are generated by a phone call," said James Perry, spokesman for the National Consumers League. "Scammers are better able to sweet-talk or otherwise convince seniors, who may be more trusting, into handing over their money."
And it shows no sign of decreasing. "It's increasing nationwide and worldwide because it's very lucrative and very difficult for law enforcement to stop it completely," said Randy Wolverton, an expert in elderly fraud with the FBI's economic crimes unit in Washington, D.C. He said the FBI believes these scams are "vastly underreported" because of the reluctance of many elderly to report being a victim.
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