Tips, Trends and Tidbits

This information was taken directly from the June 2018 issue of Shazam’s “Spotlight On Service” publication.

Help Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15th.  A crime that robs older adults of their resources and independence is on the rise.  Financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of elder abuse.  This crime involves someone improperly using an older adult’s money or belongings for his or her personal use, and it can happen to seniors of all social economic backgrounds.

Seniors lose an estimated $2.9 Billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse in the United States.  Continue reading for tips on identification and prevention!

This crime can do irreparable damage to its victims’ finances and may ultimately deprive them of basic needs such as food, medical care or housing. Often, the victims of these crimes choose not to report them due to embarrassment or fear of retribution.

Community financial institutions are in a unique position to help protect their accountholders from financial exploitation. The following tips can help you and your accountholders identify, prevent and report elder financial abuse.

Identification

The following warning signs from the American Bankers Association® (ABA) may indicate an elder accountholder or family member is the target of financial abuse:

  1. Unusually large, frequent or unexplained account withdrawals, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, or checks written as “loans” or “gifts”
  2. ATM withdrawals by an older person who has never used a debit or ATM card
  3. New “best friends” accompanying an older person to his or her financial institution for withdrawals
  4. Sudden nonsufficient funds activity, unpaid bills, eviction notices, or loss of belongings or property
  5. Closing accounts or CDs without regard to penalty
  6. Statements no longer going to the accountholder’s home
  7. An older accountholder with confusion, fear, lack of awareness, failure to make eye contact, shame or reluctance to talk about the problem, or implausible explanations given about the elderly person’s finances by the elder or the caregiver
  8. Suspicious signatures on checks or outright forgery
  9. A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an elder without proper documentation
  10. Altered wills and trusts

Prevention

To help reduce exposure to financial fraud or scams, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) recommends that older adults:

  1. Register their telephone numberS on the National Do Not Call Registry at doNotCall.gov or 888-382-1222 to reduce telemarketing calls.
  2. Be suspicious of a prize, loan or investment that sounds too good to be true and never pay a fee to receive prizes or gifts.
  3. Consult with someone they trust before making a large purchase or investment and never allow themselves to be pressured or intimidated into immediate decisions.
  4. Never sign any documents they don’t completely understand without first consulting an attorney, trusted family member or close friend.
  5. Never provide personal information (Social Security number, debit and credit card number, etc.) over the telephone unless they initiated the call and know with whom they’re speaking.
  6. Shred debit and credit card receipts, banking statements and financial records before throwing them away.
  7. Ensure providers of personal assistance services, in-home care services, etc., have been properly screened with criminal background checks.

Grandparent scam

Make your accountholders aware of common telephone and email scams that may tug on their heartstrings but are aimed at their wallets. A scam that takes advantage of the elderly continues to plague cardholders.

The “grandparent” financial scam is a way fraudsters may attempt to swindle seniors, and it goes like this:

  • Elder: “Hello?”
  • Fraudster: “Hi, Grandma / Grandpa?”
  • Elder: “Yes. Is this Susie?”
  • Fraudster: “Yes! I’m in trouble and need you to wire me some money.”
  • Elder: “Your voice sounds different, Susie.”
  • Fraudster: “I have a bad cold, Grandma / Grandpa. I’ll be OK, but I really need your help right now. Can you wire me money?”

Often the request is for funds to be wired, because wired funds are difficult (if not impossible) to retrieve once sent.

These scams are easy to prevent by simply checking with family members on the status of children and grandchildren before sending large amounts of money from a telephone request.

Encourage your cardholders to hang up and call the family member back. Often, they’ll find their family is safe and not in need of any money. Help educate your cardholders to be wary of any type of phone call that results in a request for money or personal information.

Reporting

Only about one in five cases of elder financial exploitation is ever discovered. Don’t assume someone has already reported a suspicious situation. Have a process in place at your institution for addressing suspected elder financial abuse.

The ABA recommends your accountholders do the following if they see signs of elder financial abuse:

  1. Talk to their loved one to try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation.
  2. Report the elder financial abuse to their financial institution, and enlist its help to stop and prevent its recurrence.
  3. Contact the adult protective services agency in their town or state for help. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEA State Resources site or call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.
  4. Report all instances of elder financial abuse to their local police.