First, let's set aside any stereotypes we have about the elderly and what you think financial abuse looks like. Just because an age is defined as elderly in our society, doesn't necessary mean a person is old. Nor does it mean they are incapable of making quality decisions and taking care of themselves. Financial abuse happens at many different ages, mental capacities, and may look very different from person to person.
What we do know for sure is that it is an epidemic that is under the radar, and cases are often complex and can be difficult to investigate and prosecute. Sadly, there may be little or no opportunity for victims to regain losses. Some losses include their life savings and can result in a decline in health, broken trust, and fractured families.
Did you know?
According to the American Banker’s Association, "As people over 50 years old control over 70 percent of the nation's wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans. Senior financial abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion last year alone".
One of the more common scams targets emotions. Scammers call impersonating a loved one who may have been in an accident, or who needs money due to an emergency. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers the following advice if you or someone you know finds themselves in a similar situation.
Don't panic! Take a deep breath and get the facts.
Don't send money unless you're sure it's the real person who contacted you. Hang up and call your grandchild or friend's phone number to see if the story checks out. You could also call a different friend or relative to confirm the facts
Is the person asking for gift cards? This is a sign that it may be a scam, because gift cards usually won't help when someone is in real need of assistance.
What we can do to help.
As I also mentioned in our blog about online dating scams, we try to protect our customers from things like this, but unfortunately, there is only so much we can do. It's important that we are all looking for the red flags and taking action. Awareness is the first step. Planning ahead for financial well-being, reporting abuse, and early intervention are all vital to preventing and recovering loss when possible. Having a second line of defense in the form of sincerely caring family and friends can be very helpful.
Let's talk about it. Let's keep the conversation going. Let's spread the word and create awareness and let's help fight this crime and protect ourselves, family, and friends.