What is Elder Financial Exploitation?
Published on November 19, 2019
Linda Louie* was 78 years old when her live-in granddaughter stole over $300,000 from her banking account. Elder Financial Abuse happens everyday all around the United States.
As the United States older adult population continues to grow, more and more have fallen victim to financial abuse. As defined by the Older Americans Act, financial exploitation is the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper actions by a caregiver, fiduciary, or other individual in which the resources of an older person are used by another for personal profit or gain; or actions that result in depriving an older person of the benefits, resources, belongings, or assets to which they are entitled.
In other terms: a caretaker, financial advisor, medical professional, lawyer or any other authoritative figure who steals money, property, or belongings from an elderly is exploitation.
According to the Department of Justice, financial exploitation of older Americans has reached over $2.9 billion annually. 1 in 10 Americans aged 65+ have experienced some form of abuse, yet only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities.
Now this is something I wish wasn’t true, but sadly it happens every single day. It is often these topics that are the toughest to talk about but it’s still important to be aware of why the elderly population is a target for this type of abuse and what exactly that entails. Educating ourselves over why the elder population is at risk and the different types of exploitation is crucial in the prevention of exploitation and protecting the elderly’s finances.
Anyone is at risk for financial exploitation, and it doesn’t matter how little or how much you have. Criminals will target anyone they can find, but due to older adults’ tendencies to be more trusting and welcoming to visitors they have become a high risk group for financial exploitation.
Those committing financial exploitation crimes are usually someone the elder trusts, like a family member, neighbor, or caretaker. When it’s someone they trust, it’s likely they are guilted or controlled into giving over the finances in fear of retaliation.
Complete and total strangers can also target elders by ways of internet, insurance and home repair scams that all lead with the promise of a helping hand.
So how can we keep an eye out?
By being aware of the different types of elder financial exploitation and how to identify it will strengthen your chances in protecting yourself, loved ones, or someone you care for that might be at risk. A few common scams and tactics used for elder financial exploitation are:
- Sweetheart/romance scams are fake romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud.
- U.S. Soldiers are stuck in foreign countries and need help getting back to the USA
- Mail fraud/schemes.
- In-person residential repairs or updates where they are paid money in advance but do not complete the work.
- Caretakers and family members draining their accounts by writing checks or using their debit cards.
- Identity theft and account takeover.
- Impersonation of an elder by family members or caretakers via phone to inquire about accounts or loan requests.
To see more types of explorations targeting the elderly population click here.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has taken an active role in stopping financial exploitation in its older members. Found on the NCUA website is a multitude of resources that provided information on how to avoid scams and signs to look for.
Neighborhood Credit Union is taking an active role in protecting our members by teaching our employees how to look for red flags and to report any suspicion of financial exploitation. Once reported, we collaborate with the U.S. government in cases of suspected money laundering and fraud.
If you have noticed a change in an elderly’s financial practices such as changes in behavior, large withdrawals, abnormal ATM activity, new joint accounts or unpaid bills, it brings reason to suspect. If you’d like to read more about spotting the signs, Money Crashers provides a useful list.
To report any suspicion, you should contact Adult Protective Services (APS). Texas APS provides an abuse hotline and more information on how you can report suspected elder abuse. All reports to APS will be anonymous.
When filing the report with Texas APS you will need:
- Name, age, address, and phone numbers of those involved.
- Details about the alleged perpetrator and if they are paid or unpaid caretaker.
- Details about the individuals physical, medical and mental condition.
- What activities of daily living does the client require assistance with.
Neighborhood Credit Union is holding two free workshops in December for members and family members to increase knowledge and awareness around elder financial exploitation. Choose from an afternoon or evening workshop and learn ways to protect yourself or loved ones from elder financial abuse. Learn more and register here.
*name has been changed to protect identity of victim and those involved