As our population ages, more people become vulnerable to fraud, and it’s increasingly important that we help protect the seniors in our lives. Unfortunately, a dark and hidden link exists between financial fraud and elder abuse. Elder fraud is a grave issue that strips seniors of their hard-earned savings and exposes them to emotional distress and even physical harm.
Understanding elder fraud
Elder fraud refers to the deliberate exploitation of older adults by scammers who aim to deceive and manipulate them for financial gain. These fraudsters employ various tactics, such as fake investment schemes, identity theft, sweepstakes scams, or phishing emails, to trick seniors into divulging personal information or giving away their money. The consequences of falling victim to elder fraud can be devastating, leaving seniors financially ruined and emotionally traumatized.
The hidden connection
Elder fraud and elder abuse are intricately linked. Many instances of elder abuse stem from financial motives. Perpetrators, including family members, caregivers, or acquaintances, take advantage of their access to an elder’s finances, exploiting them for personal gain. They may coerce or manipulate seniors into signing over property titles, changing their wills, or giving them control over bank accounts. The abuse sometimes escalates to physical harm, neglect, or isolation when the elder tries to resist or expose the fraud.
Factors that increase the risk of elder fraud & abuse
Several factors contribute make seniors more vulnerable to fraud and abuse:
- First, cognitive decline associated with aging can make older adults more susceptible to scams. Scammers may prey on seniors’ diminished ability to detect deceitful tactics.
- Second, social isolation increases the likelihood of victimization. Older adults who lack social connections may become more reliant on caretakers or others who may take advantage of them.
- Lastly, seniors’ accumulated wealth and assets make them attractive targets for financial exploitation.
The impacts on elderly individuals
The impact of elder fraud and abuse extends beyond financial loss. Victims often suffer significant emotional and psychological distress. The realization that they have been deceived and betrayed by someone they trusted can lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and loss of self-worth. Additionally, the financial ramifications can be severe, jeopardizing the victim’s ability to afford basic necessities like housing, healthcare, and medication.
Combating elder fraud and abuse
Raising awareness is crucial in combating elder fraud and abuse. Communities, law enforcement agencies, and financial institutions must work together to educate seniors about common scams and warning signs. Encouraging open conversations within families about financial matters can help identify potential exploitation and prevent abuse. Additionally, implementing safeguards, such as requiring dual signatures for significant financial transactions or appointing trusted individuals to oversee financial decisions, can provide an added layer of protection.
Elder financial abuse awareness
Early in 2023, the Payments Innovation Alliance formed the Consumer Financial Exploitation (CFE) Project Team. One of this teams’ objectives is to create educational materials, resources, and tools to enable the industry to fight financial fraud. The group identified elder financial abuse as a widespread problem, with more than $3 billion stolen from older Americans each year. With World Elder Abuse Awareness Day recognized on June 15, the project team felt more attention should be called to this issue and developed a campaign for the entire month of June. This campaign includes educational materials and resources to promote awareness and educate the industry on the prevalence of elder financial abuse.
Valley can help
At Valley, we are committed to protecting seniors against identity theft, fraud, and any kind of financial exploitation or abuse. If you believe someone you love has been victimized by financial elder abuse, we can help. Stop by any Valley branch, contact us online, or call our Customer Service Team at 1-800-522-4100.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult our personal tax, legal and accounting advisors for advice before engaging in any transaction.