10 Tips to Protect Seniors from Elder Financial Abuse

A startled man dealing with elder financial abuse. Elderly man holding piggy bank as greedy scammers hands from out of frame reach in to grab the piggy.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation…

In today’s guest blog, our friends from Ohio Credit Union League will break down 10 great tips to try and prevent elder financial abuse:

The rise in elder financial abuse – defined by any sort of theft or scam that exploits vulnerabilities in a senior’s trust or capacity – tracks with a high elder population here in Ohio. Seniors are the fastest-growing population segment in Ohio, and the Scripps Gerontology Center projects more than a quarter of Ohioans will be aged 60 and older by 2025.

The national rate of elder financial abuse is also high, with 1 in 20 cases of seniors falling victim to the crime, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). In 2022, the Department of Justice brought nearly 300 legal actions against nearly 700 defendants for stealing a total of over $1.5 billion from over 2 million victims. The most common fraudulent schemes included lottery, romance, and tech support scams.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2022, there were more than 88,000 fraud complaints from individuals 60+ years of age that resulted in $3.1 billion in losses. This represents an 82 percent increase in losses compared to the previous year.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides a quick reference guide for older adults on elder financial abuse, which includes warning signs, common scams, how to avoid and report elder fraud and exploitation, and services and resources.

Ohio seniors and their trusted advocates can also find help in their community to avoid fraud and elder financial abuse. Credit unions exist to improve their members’ lives and offer guidance and resources to help members better protect and manage their finances. With a surge in fraud of all kinds, credit unions have gained a great deal of experience in aiding members through the fallout and recovery from a scam. While the outcome of each fraud case is different, FFCCU members have shared positive experiences when seeking assistance from their credit union after scammers strike. Ideally, of course, staying vigilant and practicing solid tips to prevent you from ever experiencing fraud is the best way to go!

Tips to Protect Seniors from Financial Exploitation

With 1 in 20 senior citizens in the U.S. reportedly being scammed out of their money, elder financial exploitation is a significant concern. It is important for older adults to have a trusted advocate in their later years. Whether you have witnessed this firsthand with loved ones, or you simply want to protect them before it’s too late, read these tips from AARP to keep the seniors in your life safe:

  1. Think ahead. Talk to your loved ones about their wishes for the future and help them plan for it by designating power of attorney and healthcare directives. Consider granting someone else authority in financial matters if their physical or mental health is declining.
  2. Stay connected. Keep in regular contact with your loved ones through frequent calls, texts, emails, and visits.
  3. Build trust with sensitive financial matters. Extreme privacy when handling money issues is common for senior citizens, but it also sets them up for vulnerability. If no one else has eyes on their finances, they could be scammed for months without knowing it. Become the trusted financial advocate your loved one needs.
  4. Set up separate accounts. If your loved one is willing, set up several separate accounts so that they aren’t completely wiped out should they fall victim to a scam.
  5. Set up direct deposit. Have checks deposited right into an elder’s account so that potential bad actors don’t have the opportunity to cash them.
  6. Track financial activity. Look into financial monitoring tools like EverSafe, which will track financial activity and make the user aware of any suspicious withdrawals or spending.
  7. Know before you sign. Never sign any documents that you don’t understand.
  8. Recognize the red flags. Unfortunately, most cases of elder financial abuse are committed by someone the victim knows. Be aware of the sudden reappearance of any friend or family member who has been largely absent in your loved one’s life or multiple requests to change account ownership.
  9. Trust your gut. If something feels off or things are not adding up with your loved one’s finances, follow your intuition and get help.
  10. Report any wrongdoing. If you’re convinced someone is scamming your loved one out of their money, contact your credit union and Adult Protection Services immediately and file a report with your local police department.