Recognizing Signs Key to Uncovering Financial Elder Abuse
Knowing our customers well is perhaps the first line of defense in identifying the red flags of fraud. Customers often see the same teller who routinely handles their financial transactions each time they visit the banking facility. That teller is in a prime position to be able to detect any changes from their normal transactions, such as frequency, amount or type of transaction.
One type of fraud, financial elder abuse, involves the theft or conversion of money or property belonging to an elder, and is accomplished through force, misrepresentation, or other illegal means. According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, persons over the age of 50 control 70% of the nation’s wealth, making them an attractive target. Elder financial abuse plagues over two million Americans each year and is the number one crime committed against people aged 65 and older, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
Perpetrators of elder abuse can be family members, such as children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings or other relatives; caregivers, including nurses, aides, household help, clergy or any other person who is helping the individual; or con artists, such as repair/service people, predatory telemarketers or salespeople, or volunteers.
Financial exploitation is especially detrimental to the elderly because a single crime can completely wipe out an individual’s life savings and leave the person with very little or nothing to support themselves. Also, an older person will be less likely to be able to replace what he or she has lost. The emotional toll can be high since many times the perpetrator is someone that the elderly victim trusted. Unfortunately these crimes often go unreported because the victim might feel isolated or embarrassed, may not know where to go for help, or, in some cases, may not even realize they have been victimized. By knowing the indicators, friends and family of elderly persons may be able to help prevent or limit the financial damage this type of fraud causes.
Red flags that might indicate financial exploitation include:
- Sudden changes in an elder’s bank accounts or banking practices.
- Uncharacteristic and unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money by an elder or someone with Power of Attorney for an elder.
- Large credit card transactions or checks written to unusual recipients such as salesmen, telemarketers or “Cash.”
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial document, such as a transfer of an elder’s assets to a family member or acquaintance without a reasonable explanation.
- Complaints of stolen or misplaced credit cards, valuables, checkbooks or checks from social security, pensions and annuities.
- Nervousness when accompanied by another individual or far-fetched explanations of why they need money.
- Elders who appear puzzled by increases in incurred debt or credit card transactions.
- A person accompanying an elder who bullies him or her into making a withdrawal or does not allow the elder to speak for him or herself.
- New signatories added to an elder’s account or newly formed joint accounts between an elder and another individual.
- Possible forged signatures on financial transactions, documents for transfer of assets or new applications for items such as credit cards.
Different elder financial exploitation schemes include Intimidation, Power of Attorney, Lottery and Sweetheart Scams. Each scheme targets a different vulnerability but has the same goal of separating the elderly victim from his or her funds.
As part of mandated training, all bank employees at First Community Bank and Trust complete a course that addresses this serious issue. The course identifies different types of scams, warning signs to watch for and appropriate actions to take if fraud is suspected. This training allows us to better serve our customers and to protect their assets.
If you suspect financial elder abuse, either your own or that of a family member or friend, please contact the Illinois Department on Aging Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-866-800-1409 (1-888-206-1327 -TTY). Information is also available on their website, www.state.il.us/aging/.
About First Community Bank and Trust
First Community Bank and Trust is a privately owned bank. Established in 1916 First Community Bank and Trust has been serving Beecher, IL, Peotone, IL and the surrounding communities for over 95 years. Our commitment to providing the best banking products and services is matched only by our outstanding customer service. We offer traditional community banking services, including mortgage, consumer, and commercial lending, as well as state of the art electronic banking services.
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Steven D. Koehn, VP
First Community Bank and Trust