When it comes to financial theft and scams, older adults make up at least 10 percent of those that fall victim each year in the United States. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has reported that Elder Financial Exploitation (EFE) is on the rise with millions of older adults losing more than $3 billion to financial fraud annually.
Elder Financial Exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and the majority of it goes unreported as victims choose not to come forward out of fear, embarrassment, or lack of resources. Older adults are targeted due to their income and accumulated life-long savings, in addition to the possibility of declining cognitive and physical abilities, isolation from family and friends, lack of familiarity with technology, and reliance on others for financial management.
TYPES OF ELDER THEFT & SCAMS
Older adults are defrauded into sending payments and personal identification information to scammers under false pretenses or for a promised benefit or good they will receive. This usually occurs via phone call, robocall, text message, email, mail, in-person communication, online dating apps or websites, or social media platforms. The scammers will create high-pressure situations by appealing to emotions and taking advantage of their trust.
Here are the most common types of Elder Scams:
- Government Imposter: Scammers impersonate U.S. Government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or IRS and threaten arrest or seizure of their bank accounts.
- Romance or Online Dating “Sweetheart” Scam: Scammers create a fictious profile on an online dating app or website and establish a close or romantic relationship with older adults to exploit their confidence and trust. They will offer to meet in person and ask for money for travel expenses or a sudden “hardship” like medical costs or legal fees.
- Emergency/Person-in-Need “Grandparent” Scam: Scammers contact older adults and impersonate a grandchild, relative, attorney, emergency medical personnel, or law enforcement official to deceive victims into believing that a loved one is in an emergency situation and needs money immediately.
- Lottery and Sweepstakes Scam: An advance-fee scheme impersonates lottery or sweepstakes representatives and lawyers claiming that the victim won a lottery, prize, or sweepstakes. They ask the victim to pay for supposed shipping, taxes, or other fees in order to claim their winnings.
- Tech and Customer Support Scam: Scammers impersonate well-known companies as tech and customer support representatives to falsely claim that a virus or other malware has compromised the victim’s computer. They request remote access to diagnose the problem and will attempt to solicit payment for fraudulent software products and services. When gaining remote access, they also install malware that allows them to steal personal information and credit card information.
RED FLAGS TO WATCH FOR
- Sudden and unusual changes in contact information or new connections to emails, phone numbers, or accounts that originate overseas.
- An older adult that appears distressed, submissive, fearful, anxious to follow others’ directions related to their financial accounts, or unable to answer basic questions about account activity.
- An older adult mentions how an online friend or romantic partner is asking for money.
- An older adult is agitated or frenzied about the need to send money immediately due to an emergency.
- Dormant accounts with large balances start to show constant withdrawals.
- An older adult begins to purchase large amounts of gift cards or prepaid access cards.
- An older adult is sending multiple checks or wire transfers.
- Frequent or significant withdrawals of cash or transfers of assets from accounts.
- Sudden or frequent non-sufficient fund activity.
- Closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
If you, or someone you know, has been scammed, please contact NexTier Bank immediately at 1.800.262.1088 or go to your local branch.