Senior exploitation happens more often than you might think, and there’s no better time to focus on it than June for World Elder Abuse Month. With the aging baby boomer population comes a higher concentration of wealth in the hands of seniors. On top of that, with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, this population may be even more susceptible to different types of healthcare and charity scams.
Across the industry, elder financial exploitation cases are on the rise year over year, and USAA is noting similar trends impacting our membership. According to the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, elder financial exploitation costs seniors in the U.S. up to $36.5 billion each year. Additionally, one in five people ages 65 or older report being a victim of financial exploitation or abuse.
Industry data also shows that exploitation is often the most underreported of incidents to law enforcement or Adult Protective Services. That’s why we’re urging members to be on the lookout, both for themselves and their loved ones, for this type of financial exploitation.
Who to Watch
Sometimes the perpetrators can take us completely by surprise. Nine out of ten perpetrators who commit elder abuse are family members or other trusted individuals, like a romantic partner. They are usually people we would know and trust with our elderly relatives. When elderly or other kinds of vulnerable adults put their trust in the wrong person, it can lead to major financial upheaval in their lives. People like caregivers, new “friends” or even a close family member can sometimes perpetrate these scams.
What to Watch Out For
Common warning signs or “red flags” to help you identify potential elder financial exploitation include:
Common Scams Targeting the Elderly Right Now
How to Prevent Financial Exploitation of the Elderly
Although difficult to prevent when it involves someone you may know, love or trust, there are certain actions individuals can take to prevent elder abuse. Here are some tips from the Justice Department:
Where to Report Suspected Senior Exploitation
If you or someone you know might be the victim of this type of exploitation, there are things you can do to help. If the case is life-threatening contact 911. For financial exploitation, contact the Fraud Department at each of the financial institutions you hold an account (at USAA, you can reach us at 1-800-531-8722), and report to your local adult protective agency or area agency on aging. You can also contact your local law enforcement office.
“Countering the Financial Exploitation of Elders and Other Vulnerable Populations,” presentation by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (Accessed 06/04/2020)