Recognizing the Signs of Financial Abuse

November 6, 2023 |
Article | 5 min
| Personal Insights

Every year, vulnerable Americans suffer losses of over $28 billion due to financial exploitation, as reported1 by the AARP. Shockingly, only a quarter of all frauds against the elderly are reported to law enforcement. At Rocky Mountain Bank, a division of HTLF Bank, we are dedicated to safeguarding our vulnerable customers, and we are here to help you recognize and understand the signs of financial exploitation or abuse. Take steps to help protect yourself or your loved ones from these devastating crimes by educating yourself on these crucial matters.

According to the Department of Justice’s definition of financial exploitation, vulnerable demographics encompass individuals aged 60 or over, as well as those with physical or mental impairments that significantly restrict one or more major life activities.

Signs of financial abuse include:

  • Missing cash, checkbooks, debit cards, or other items of value; missing cash from caregivers keeping change from groceries or other expenses.
  • Heightened influence of others over the elderly or vulnerable person, including neighbors, caregivers, new friends, or online acquaintances.
  • Sudden inclusion of caregivers or new acquaintances in wills or other directives, or new power of attorney assignment.
  • Change in demeanor when asked questions about accounts or finances, funds transfers, or payments made to others, acting fearful or unwilling to explain transactions.
  • Unusual transfers, wires, bill pay transactions, checks to new payees, or any other transactions out of pattern.
  • New relationships established online or over the phone, especially where the other party requests online banking credentials, as well as requesting funds or encourages a new investment.

There are also scams which target these demographics, specifically due to their vulnerabilities:

  • Imposter scams include the “grandchild in jail” and the “government agency” phone scams, where bad actors pretend to be a grandchild in peril or a government entity (such as Social Security Administration or law enforcement) and rely on a false sense of urgency to get their victim to act.
  • Tech Support scammers hope their victim isn’t tech savvy enough to know “Microsoft” or “Amazon” would never need to gain remote access to their system or to their online banking.
  • Romance scams target individuals who may have recently lost a loved one, and socially engineer a fake relationship, ultimately asking for funds or access to their accounts. These can go on for months or years before the bad actor starts requesting money.

A banker or fraud representative may proactively notify the account holder or power of attorney about suspicious activities, raise concerns regarding funds transfers, or inquire about the specifics of cash withdrawals. Their goal is to help ensure the security and protection of the account by actively engaging with the account holder in these matters.

It is important to note these red flags listed here are not exhaustive. The laws about financial abuse of a vulnerable adult vary from state to state, and you may wish to consult an attorney in addition to alerting your financial institution if you believe any abuse is occurring.

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