According to the National Council on Aging(link is external), approximately 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. Elder financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of abuse, likely because there is an opportunity for monetary gain by the perpetrator.
WHAT IS ELDER FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION?
Elder financial exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets. The perpetrators of elder financial exploitation gain access to their victim’s assets via deception, false pretense, coercion, harassment and duress. Sometimes, they can even resort to verbal and physical threats.
WHAT MAKES THE ELDERLY VULNERABLE?
There are many factors as to why the elderly are targeted, besides the physical and cognitive changes that can come with age. Older generations tend to have a higher median net worth, which makes them prime targets. The elderly are also more trusting in nature, which the scammers utilize to their advantage.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TACTICS USED?
- Elder financial exploitation comes in many shapes and sizes and can be carried-out in several different ways, to include:
- Lotteries and sweepstakes – scammer contacts the target saying they won a lottery and in order to receive the prize, they need to pay the taxes and fees
- IRS/Law enforcement – target receives a call stating they owe taxes to the IRS or owes a fine and requests payment from a credit, debit or gift card
- Charity – fraudster claims to be raising funds for a charity and asks for donations
- Utility company – fraudster impersonates a utility worker and demands payment to prevent service being cut-off
- Email (phishing) – target receives an email that appears to be legitimate asking to update their personal or account information, such as: name, address, date of birth, social security number or account number by clicking on a link
- Social Security – scammer calls the target claiming to be from the Social Security Administration and states benefits are suspended until the target provides personal information or pays for reinstatement
HOW CAN THIS TYPE OF ABUSE BE PREVENTED?
- Preventing elder financial exploitation starts with the individual. There are several steps that can be taken to prevent being a victim, to include:
- Do not give out your personal information, such as social security number, unless it is absolutely necessary
- Do not click on links in emails that you were not expecting
- Do not be intimidated by fraudsters pretending to be IRS/law enforcement as they will never contact you by phone requesting payment, especially via Amazon, Google, Best Buy or any other type of gift card
- If you receive a check in the mail that you were not expecting, do not cash or deposit it; the fraudster is expecting funds to be sent back, knowing the check is fraudulent
- Shred documents containing personal information that are no longer needed
- Check bank statements, credit card statements and credit reports for suspicious activity
- Obtain a trusted person to act as a Power-of-Attorney
If you are a family member or a friend of someone whom you believe to be a victim of elder financial abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. Your local agency has a team of investigators that can provide additional resources to help.
As a consumer, it is imperative you take the necessary steps to prevent yourself from being a victim of fraud, regardless of your age. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact Notre Dame FCU immediately so we can take action to protect you and your account from fraudulent withdrawals. Visit NotreDameFCU.com/services/more for additional tools and resources on fraud prevention.