What is elder financial abuse?

The U.S. Justice Department defines elder financial abuse as any improper use of an adult’s finances and property, either without their consent or through manipulative and threatening measures. 

Sadly, 87.5% of older adults were victims of financial mistreatment by friends or family members, and according to the National Council on Aging, one in 10 Americans aged 60-plus have experienced a form of elder abuse. With financial exploitation being the most common form of elder abuse, here’s six simple tips to follow that could help prevent it.

1. Use Caution with Newcomers

Scammers may come in the form of new friends or romantic interests looking to gain your trust to get access to confidential information. Be cautious around newcomers and never give out personal information such as your social security number, bank account number, debit card PIN, and other financial information.

2. Romantic Swindlers

“If an online love interest asks you for money, that’s a scam.” According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers will often claim to be 1) heroes in faraway places, 2) in love, 3) ask for expensive favors, and 4) always ask for money. While meeting a lover online has grown in popularity, it’s wise to keep an eye on their true intentions. In 2022 alone, $1.3 billion were lost to romance scams. If you believe you or your loved one are being targeted by a romance scammer, stop all contact and report their profile to the platform or authorities.

3. Look for Unusual Transactions

You can often stop a scam attempt by monitoring account activity for unusual transactions. If there’s a debit or credit that you’re unfamiliar with, immediately contact your bank to investigate or possibly start the dispute process. Here are some common transactions that can indicate financial abuse or fraud:

  • Account transfers or outgoing wires you didn’t initiate
  • Microbursts (small transaction amounts of $1 or less indicate that a card or account is being verified by a third party)
  • Charges with international descriptions when you’re in the U.S.

4. Take Note of Telephone Scams

Did you know scammers contacting people by phone or on social media led to some of the biggest monetary losses in 2023? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), imposter scams, which are largely executed by phone, resulted in a $10 billion loss. These fraudsters deceived victims into giving out sensitive financial and personal information over the phone using a variety of tactics, including false job offers, investment opportunities, IRS audits, and more. While these claims are bogus, scammers often follow trends to victimize individuals. Remember, never give out personal information over the phone, and if it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is.

5. Technical Trouble

Scammers are taking advantage of our increased dependence on technology, so it’s imperative to use caution with tech. For example, a common scam involves a pop-up alert or phone call informing the victim of a potential computer virus. The fake tech support representative requests payment to remove the supposed virus when, in reality, they’re seeking money and financial information. Avoid this scam by purchasing legitimate virus software from a trusted retailer. Alternatively, take your device to a qualified tech repair center if you suspect it may be compromised. If you believe you or your loved one area victim of this scam, immediately reach out to your bank’s Fraud Department.

6. Social Media Posers

As of 2024, there are 5.16 billion active social media users worldwide. Specifically, platforms like Facebook may feel like a tight knit circle comprised of high school pals and extended family, but there are 3.15 billion monthly active users. Some of which use the site specifically to scam users into sending money or sharing personal information. Here are some red flags to watch out for when you or an aging family member “friend” someone on the internet.

  • No profile picture
  • A public profile with limited information (no hometown, high school, or relationship status)
  • Low number of friends/followers

Stay in Touch

Often, abusers will want to isolate victims, so they’re less likely to get help. If you are elderly, it’s a good idea to stay in contact with trusted family and friends and be wary of anyone who intends to separate you from your support circle. Similarly, if you are a family member or close friend of a senior, keep in regular contact with them. You could be thwarting a fraudster by simply calling or paying a visit to your loved one.

Remember, Elder Abuse, financial or otherwise, is a sad reality. Knowing the warning signs of abuse can keep yourself, your friends, and your family safe.  For additional support and resources, please visit the links below.

If you feel you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact FirstBank’s 24-hour customer service line at 1-800-964-3444.

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