June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. While it can be difficult to imagine anyone deliberately harming an elder, the reality is that it does happen. Here’s a look at some of the warning signs, what to do to report a case of elder abuse, and how we, as a credit union, protect our elderly members.
Types of Elder Financial Abuse and their Warning Signs
Intimidation: criminal makes victims cooperate with financial abuse because they are afraid for their safety or life. Intimidation methods are especially frightening to a victim if he or she is dependent on the caregiver.
Power of attorney scheme: When an individual who has power of attorney for an elderly person takes advantage of that privilege, it is a power of attorney scheme.
A sweetheart scheme: An elderly person becomes romantically involved with a con artist. Then, the scammer pretends to be interested in the individual to gain trust, then uses the relationship for financial profit.
*Red flags include:
- The individual is suddenly spending time with a new or substantially younger boyfriend or girlfriend.
- The elderly person is suddenly showing more attention to his or her appearance.
- Increased withdrawals for large amounts of cash
- Credit card charges at jewelry or clothing stores
- Any unusual transaction to a third party who is not a relative
A home improvement scheme: When a worker promises an elderly individual to perform certain repairs to their house if he or she pays a fee. Scammers may:
- Charge an excessive amount for the repair
- Begin the repair after receiving full or partial payment, but disappear without finishing
- Take a deposit for the work, but never show up to start or end the job.
- Work inside the house and steal money, valuables, or identification and financial documents.
*Be sure to encourage him or her to get bids from a variety of businesses, record each contractor’s license number, and verify with local organizations to make sure the person is legitimate.
Identity theft: When a criminal steals an individual’s personal and private information and uses it to commit fraud or other crimes.
*Red flags of this type of financial abuse include members:
- Elder mentioning they haven’t received any account statement(s)
- Not remembering having performed certain transactions
- Provided confidential information to “someone from the credit union” over the phone or on the computer
More signs to watch out for:
- Unusual, erratic, or fearful behavior
- Physical injuries
- Disorientation or confusion
- Unusual activity in bank accounts (out of the ordinary transactions).
- Use of an ATM by a member who typically does their banking in-branch.
- Closing accounts and certificates without worrying about repercussions.
- Suspicious signatures or outright forgery.
- Refusal to make eye contact or reluctance to talk about the problem.
What to do if you suspect elder financial abuse:
- Find out more information to determine the truth about their financial situation.
- Report the elder financial abuse to their credit union, and enlist their banker’s help to stop it and prevent a recurrence.
- Report to Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help.
Why It Matters:
Our elders may not be able to advocate for themselves.
Many seniors are not in a place to stand up for themselves, whether it’s because they’re physically frail or because they’re afraid to speaking up. It’s crucial for all of us to be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse, and to be the voice that seeks help. No one deserves to live in fear of harm or exploitation.
We’re reminded to look out for each other.
It’s easy to see bad things and not say anything. But, this day reminds us how important it is to look after, and look out for, our fellow humans. It reminds us to exercise compassion daily and care about others.
Here to protect you.
As your credit union, it is our responsibility to note any different behaviors or activities concerning your finances. We take special care to understand and get to know you so we may identify, prevent, and report any instances of fraud. If you have more questions or are concerned about a potential financial abuse scenario, contact us at 406.651.AFCU (2328).