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  • Elizabeth McMorrow

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15, 2024 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. How are you protecting your loved ones and clients from elder financial exploitation? One form of elder abuse is financial exploitation which is the illegal or unethical exploitation and/or use of an elder’s funds, property, or other assets. In 2023, elder financial fraud in the U.S. was in excess of $3.4B according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This is an 11% increase from 2022.

Signs of Financial Exploitation

Exploitation can impact senor citizens of every income level. Some of the basic signs to be aware of are:

  • Lack of necessities such as food, water, or utilities

  • Unpaid bills, new credit cards and/or increased cash withdrawals

  • Improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets; cashing checks without permission; forging signatures; forcing or deceiving an older person into signing a document; using an ATM/debit card without permission.

Types of Scams

There are a variety of ongoing scams used to steal personal information from the elder or to trick the elder into sending funds directly to the scammer through wires, crypto deposits, gift cards, etc. Some of these scams include:

  • Impersonation. Posing as a technical or customer support representative, bank employee, or government employee to convince the senior citizen that a foreign hacker has gotten into their financial account and the money must be moved to a safe account or that they owe the government money. This “safe” account is, of course, controlled by the scammer. This scam sometimes includes a scammer collecting money or other valuable assets from the elderly person at their home. In one situation, an innocent person was sent to pick up a package from an elderly target. The elderly man shot the unknowing courier dead.

  • Romance also known as “pig butchering”. The fraudster develops a relationship through email gaining trust and then convinces the elder to transfer funds to help the fraudster with a personal health issue, invest in a successful company, etc.

  • Investment fraud. The fraudster could be a “trusted” professional in the senior’s life or a complete stranger. Some put blame on the senior for being greedy but it could also be the senior is trying to remain financially independent and not become a burden on family.

  • Identify towns in the U.S. with crypto ATMs. Given the amount of personal information for sale, scammers can target seniors in U.S. towns with crypto ATMs. In an affluent town near me, the crypto ATM is located inside a gas station / convenience store. The store clerk prevented several seniors from losing their money and the local police promptly arrived to tend to the elder.

  • Request funds be sent via wire while demanding the senior remain on the phone. The senior might be directed to their bank to wire money or make a cash withdrawal, to a store to buy gift cards to then read the numbers including security codes, to a crypto ATM to make a deposit into the scammers account, etc.

  • Home repair fraud. This may be done by phone or in person. One popular in person scheme in my state is to tell the senior the worker has some extra driveway sealant from a nearby job. The elderly homeowner is left with a toxic clean up after the fraudster spreads oil or another substance over the driveway.

  • Kidnapped child / grandchild. My mother received a call claiming that her grandchild had been kidnapped. Thankfully, my mother has zero cognitive issues, is a skeptical person, and had heard of this particular scam. Annoyed at her political discussion television show being interrupted, she replied, “What’s their last name!?” and hung up.

One of my phone numbers was somehow connected to a retired husband and wife when their data was sold to hackers. The scammers, thinking I am an elderly woman, have tried to:

  • Buy my house (using the couple’s actual address which I was able to find on the internet)

  • Sell me solar panels

  • Get me to change my Medicare / health insurance

  • Allow them access to my computer to fix my computer software

  • Gain access to my credit card due to a past due payment, data breach, etc.

  • And my personal favorite given my profession: claim they are from the IRS and demand I immediately pay or an agent is coming to arrest me.

What Can We Do As Children / Grandchildren?

  • Stay current on the type of scams being perpetrated on the elderly and educate your loved ones. Check out the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans

  • Explain to your loved one about internet use, clicking on ads, clicking on email or text links, cleaning out cookies and other search history. Basically, share what you are taught by your own company to protect the company’s IT systems.

  • With your loved one, order free annual credit reports through the site approved by the U.S. government:

  • Allow your loved one to maintain independence but ask if you can have a power of attorney so you can be aware of their financial activities.

  • If your loved one becomes a victim of elder fraud, contact the local police and the National Elder Fraud Hotline +1-833-372-8311.

What Can We Do As Financial Industry Professionals?

There is no stereotype of elderly person who might fall victim to fraud. Rich, highly educated, competent elderly clients can fall victim to fraud. Do not consider overstepping your bounds to ensure appropriate steps are followed in an unusual transaction request. This is especially important if there is undue influence by a family member. Elder theft by family members and other trusted individuals in the senior’s life accounts for a large percentage of reported elder financial exploitation.

The number one prevention is adequate training of staff. Below are some topics to consider:

Common scams relevant to your client base and financial industry segment.

For assistance, please contact me via my contact page or at

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