Spotting Elder Financial Exploitation

Each year older adults lose billions of dollars to financial exploitation. Defined as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets, elder financial exploitation is a devastating crime that is becoming increasingly common according to the American Bankers Association (ABA).

It not only impacts an elder’s financial situation, but often takes an emotional toll as well. Victims of such abuse frequently experience intense feelings of fear, depression, anger, and humiliation. In turn, abused elders may be at risk of poorer health outcomes and increased mortality relative to their counterparts. Fraudsters prey on elders because as a whole, older adults possess more financial assets than other demographics.

Seniors tend to own their own homes, have accrued savings over their lifetimes, generally have better credit and tend to be more trusting of others relative to younger populations. Consequently, criminals have engineered specific scams, such as the grandparent scam and other impostor scams, to target America’s elderly.

Here are some examples of crimes against the elderly:

Cemetery/Funeral Scams – Criminals read obituaries and call survivors claiming the deceased owed them a debt to extort money from living relatives.

Charity Scams – Con artists reach out and claim to be from an organization with a carefully crafted name. They ask for a donation to obtain access to financial information, such as credit or debit card numbers. They often pop up after disasters. Others falsely state that they fundraise to support veterans.

Check Fraud – Con artists send people money via check, claim they overpaid, and then ask the victim to send part of it back. But, the original check was fraudulent, so the victim ends up sending their own money to the criminal.

Health Insurance/Medicare Scams – Scammers either pose as Medicare or health insurance representatives to obtain personally identifiable information from elders or provide unnecessary services at makeshift clinics and then bill Medicare to ensure they can keep the money.

Homeowner/Mortgage Scams – Scammers may send fake, but professional looking letters to people on behalf of their county offering to reassess their home values for a fee to address their tax burdens.

Imposter Scams – Fraudsters may call or send text messages impersonating government officials to manipulate elders into sharing sensitive information. Alternatively, they may pretend to be family members in an emergency situation and claim they need money right away. Scammers may also pose as technology support representatives to offer to fix non-existent computer issues to capture personal information and have seniors pay for useless services.

Online Fraud – Criminals pose as romantic interests on social media platforms or dating websites to exploit older adults out of their life savings. Elders may receive emails asking them to update or verify their personal information from a seemingly legitimate organization, but if they click the links, they will be providing sensitive information to criminals.

Lottery/Sweepstakes Scams – An older adult may receive a message indicating that they won a foreign or domestic prize or lottery, but are required to pay a fee to access their “winnings.”

Telemarketing/Phone Scams – An elder may receive calls from fraudsters indicating that they found a large sum of money and would split it if the elder would provide or pay a smaller sum of money.

Sadly, while these scams are targeted toward older Americans, nearly anyone can fall prey to criminals who are looking to take their money and identity. Share this information with your friends and family to help them protect themselves.  Follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for infographics and more. Thanks to the ABA for providing VCNB and other member banks with this valuable information.  

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