Former FBI director, wife targeted in elder scam

PITTSBURGH — Imagine answering your phone and sharing a few simple details about yourself only to find out that on the other end of the line is a scammer waiting to steal your money.

That’s what happened to the former FBI director, who said if it can happen to him it can happen to anyone.

“General warning is to be alert to people you don’t know, or you don’t know well,” said Judge William Webster, the former CIA and FBI director.

Webster and his wife Lynda were the targets of an elder scam, when a man promised the former director a large lottery win.

“He called himself David, and promised my husband $72 million in lottery money,” said Lynda Webster.

Ms. Webster said she overheard the call and intercepted telling the man to never call back. He did call back, and what she says happened next was disturbing.

“The next day he threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my husband, and burn our house down,” said Lynda Webster.

That experience, while nerve-wracking, sparked a movement. If a judge and the former FBI director could be targeted anyone could.

“That’s when we took action and worked together with the FBI to put them into jail,” said Lynda Webster.

They’ve worked with the FBI to strengthen penalties for offenders.

The experts shared that the most important thing is to be aware.

“Be very skeptical,” said Pete Nicoletti who works for Field Cisco of the Americas at Check.

Nicoletti has worked in cybersecurity for more than thirty years and said seniors are more vulnerable because they have money and are more trusting.

“The elderly person should never volunteer any information that’s asked, and they should never submit information on the internet,” said Nicoletti.

Nicoletti added that if you are suspicious, you can always hang up and contact that company directly.

“They’re going to find out where you’re vulnerable and they’re going to exploit that vulnerability, so be careful,” said Nicoletti.

If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact the FBI or submit a tip online at www.tips.fbi.gov.

The agency shared these tips:

Protect Yourself

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communication with the perpetrator.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to you or a loved one.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date.
  • Disconnect from the Internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.