Chesterfield, Virginia — Three years ago, Sherri got a phone call warning that her bank records had been found in a car loaded with illegal drugs.
“I went into a state of shock,” she said.
The caller said he was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and demanded she send cash to avoid trouble.
“All I can remember is sending money all over the country,” Sherri, who asked CBS News not to use her full name, said, adding that she sent the scammers “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The number of scams targeting Americans over the age of 60 exploded during the pandemic, with upwards of 92,000 victims in 2021 alone, according to the FBI. Last year, older Americans were scammed out of $1.7 billion, a 74% increase from 2020, according to a recent FBI report.
“Financially, I’m ruined,” Sherri said.
Even former FBI and CIA director William Webster was targeted in a Jamaican lottery scam in 2014 when a caller claimed he won a sweepstakes. The unsolicited caller became threatening when Webster declined to pay $50,000 to collect the winnings.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” Webster warned in a public service announcement.
FBI agent Ronald Miller said the scammers who targeted Sherri have stolen $10 million to date. The scammers work overseas with U.S. collaborators who move the cash.
Miller told CBS News that older Americans are often targeted because, “They’re lonely. They’re trustworthy. They believe it’s legit.”
There are 5,000 others out there like Sherri and only a few arrests have been made, according to the FBI.