What is Elder financial exploitation?
This is the most common form of Elder Abuse involving the illegal or improper use of an older consumer’s funds, property, or assets. Elder financial exploitation has been called the crime of the 21st century costing older consumers billions of dollars a year. These consumers may be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, health problems, or bereavement. This abuse is robbing older consumers of their resources, dignity, and quality of life – and they may never recover from it.
Perpetrators who target older consumers include, among others, family members, caregivers, scam artists, financial advisers, home repair contractors, and fiduciaries (such as agents under power of attorney and guardians of property).
How can we help?
Financial institutions play a vital role in preventing and responding to this type of elder abuse. Banks and credit unions are uniquely positioned to detect that an elder account holder has been targeted or victimized, and to take action.
Financial institutions are uniquely positioned because:
- They know their customers and member.
- The often have the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with older consumers who make transactions.
- They are mandated reporters of suspected elder financial exploitation under many state laws.
Financial institutions also develop and maintain internal protocols and procedures for protecting account holders from elder financial exploitation such as:
- Training management and staff to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial exploitation.
- Accepting and honoring powers of attorney.
- Complying with EFTA and Regulation E - establishes online transfer and debit card amount limits.
Indicators of potential elder financial exploitation:
- Transaction pattern changes - abrupt increases in withdrawals; new spending patterns following the addition of a new authorized user; atypical ATM withdrawals; unusual gaps in check numbers.
- Identity theft and coercion – address changes followed by account changes; new third party speaking for the older adult; older consumer is confused by or unaware of account changes; requests to send account statements to a third party’s address.
- Behavioral changes – Older consumer appears newly distressed, unkempt, or unhygienic; older consumer mentions lottery or sweepstakes opportunities or winnings; older adult inquiries about international wire transfers.
How can you work with your bank to protect yourself?
- Immediately report abuse – Regularly monitor your account for suspicious activity. Promptly contact local law enforcement and your bank if you suspect that you have been a victim of financial exploitation.
- Consider giving a trusted relative or friend access to monitor transactions – Allow someone you trust to monitor your account for things that don’t look right (without giving that person the right to access your funds).
- Create a power of attorney or other advance plan – Plan ahead by giving a trusted person the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you cannot. Make sure your bank has a record of who can manage your money if you become unable to do so.
- You can visit eldercare.gov to find your local adult protective services agency and other service providers that can help.