Now that we’ve turned the corner to June, the countdown begins to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is an international United Nations observance day commemorated each June 15 by most countries around the globe. Elder abuse and elder financial exploitation (EFE) are growing concerns in our families and communities, especially as the baby boomer generation hits their senior years. Reports of abuse in this demographic is one of the most common in the United States.
Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022: Red flags for BSA/AML staff
June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Now is the perfect time for financial institutions to reassess elder financial exploitation red flags.
You might also like this webinar, "Elder Financial Exploitation – The Hidden Crime."
Need to know
What is elder financial exploitation?
The National Adult Protective Services Association defines EFE as any time a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for their own personal benefit. EFE frequently occurs without the explicit knowledge or consent of a senior or disabled adult, and can deprive them of vital financial resources for their future needs. Assets are commonly taken via deception, coercion, harassment, duress, and threats.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial institutions filed over 62,000 EFE suspicious activity reports (SARs) involving over $3.4 billion in 2020, increasing from $2.6 billion in 2019. EFE is known to be under-reported because the perpetrator is often a family member or close associate of the victim. It is assumed that the actual case number is significantly higher, estimated by the National Adult Protective Services Association at an annual loss between $2.9 billion and $36 billion.
FinCEN conducted a SAR analysis identifying several major scam categories, including:
Scammers establish a romantic relationship with their victims and then request money "for hardships" they experience or to "visit the victim (but never do).
Scammers will prey on a victim's emotional vulnerability by claiming to be a loved one who needs money quickly to help with an emergency.
Scammers coerce their victims to send an "import tax" or "fee" to receive the money they supposedly won in a lottery.
Elder financial exploitation red flags
Banks and credit unions can take a proactive approach to stop this cruel and dehumanizing crime before it becomes life-changing for the victims. Financial institutions are uniquely positioned to detect possible financial exploitation early before seniors lose their life savings or livelihood. The key to detecting financial exploitation early is noticing a change in a person’s established financial patterns. Watch out for these financial red flags published by the American Bankers Association:
- Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent, or unexplained withdrawals
- Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain
- A new “best friend” accompanying an older person to the bank
- Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills
- Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties
- Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
- Suspicious signatures on checks or outright forgery
- Confusion, fear, or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer
- Checks written as “loans” or “gifts”
- Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home
- New powers of attorney the older person does not understand
- A caretaker, relative, or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation
- Altered wills and trusts
Anti-money laundering and fraud monitoring software should be able to alert to changes in a customer’s financial behavior, such as spikes in outgoing wire, ACH, or cash activity. Each financial institution should monitor for EFE, and many states have mandatory reporting requirements for Adult Protective Services and SAR filing. Throughout the month of June, Abrigo will continue to share resources that fight this serious crime against our elderly and disabled customers and loved ones.