Understanding Financial Exploitation

Financial Exploitation and the Elderly

Simply put, financial exploitation occurs when a person or entity takes real or personal property with the intent to use wrongfully. Financial exploitation can happen to anyone, but when it happens to the elderly, these individuals have no means to recover what has taken a lifetime to earn and save. First Financial Bank hopes that with proper education, we can stop financial exploitation and fraudulent transactions before they happen.

Fraudsters Target Vulnerability

Although fraudulent activity can happen to anyone, there are factors that increase risk of financial exploitation amongst elders:

  • Trust: Elder citizens are typically trusting of those they perceive to be experts of a given area
  • Assets: The senior citizen community holds a majority of the nation's wealth
  • Financial Dependency: Elder citizens often require the help of caretakers to handle financials/business decisions and readily accept perceived help. A reliance on others for day-to-day affairs also increases risk
  • Limited Technological Understanding: Typically, older generations are unaware of newer financial tools or social platforms that might reveal personal information
  • Disability or Impairment: Physical and mental impairments leave elders vulnerable
  • Isolation: Without family, friends, and trusted financial advisors to regularly check on the physical and financial well-being of an elder citizen, fraud can go undetected
  • Shame: Too often, the crimes of financial exploitation go unreported because the victim fears loss of independence or simple embarrassment

Today's Fraudsters Use Sophisticated Tools and Tactics

The scams used are constantly changing and evolving, but almost always promise unrealistic returns. Out of the desire to leave a legacy for younger family members, the elderly are especially vulnerable to scams that offer additional wealth. Some of the most prevalent exploitative scams conducted by strangers include:

  • Lottery and Sweepstakes: Victims are told they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but need to pay a fee first
  • IRS/Social Security Scam: Victims are told they owe money to the government. They are usually threatened to be charged for a crime if they do not wire money quickly, usually within a matter of hours
  • Home Repair: Victims are forced to pay, in advance, for unnecessary materials or pay an unreasonable fee for services
  • Charitable Giving: Victims send money as a "gift" to a non-existent charity
  • Sweetheart Scams: Victims are often tricked into believing they are in a long distance relationship and their partner is in need of money to visit
  • Telemarketing Scams: Victims pay for a product or service that will never be delivered
  • Utility/Alarm Service: Fraudsters pose as trusted individuals to gain access into the victim's home and steal information or valuables
  • Grandparent Scam: Grandparent receives a call that a family member has been injured and is in need of immediate medical attention. Another variant is that a family member has been arrested and will not be released until money is wired to a specific location
  • Pension and retirement scams: Payments are assigned, by the victim, to fraudsters who promise large payouts that never materialize

More Than Just Strangers

Financial exploitation is not limited to strangers and mysterious con-artists from across the globe. Those who most often commit financial abuse are those in a position of trust. These individuals often times exhibit resentment toward the victim, are financially unstable, have addiction problems, or other instability issues. These individuals can include:

  • Family members
  • Caregivers
  • Nursing home staff
  • Guardians, conservators, and other fiduciaries
  • Housekeepers and other home service providers

Abuse at the Hand Of Relatives

  • Power of Attorney Abuse: individual uses Power of Attorney to access victim's accounts or identity for personal gain or profit
  • Debit and Credit Card Fraud: Items purchased by a family member that do not relate to health and well-being of the victim
  • Account Access: Use of the victims personal accounts for their own gain
  • Medical: Denying victims needed medical care or prescribed medicines

Sadly, when a family member or caretaker is perpetrating financial fraud against elders in their care, it is often accompanied by acts of physical abuse. If you suspect fraud or abuse is happening, call local law enforcement immediately.

Common "Professional" Scams

  • Investment Schemes: these individuals or entities promise unrealistic returns and are not licensed
  • Internet Phishing: fake emails about bank accounts. Do not click on anything you think might be fraudulent and call First Financial Bank to ask about anything that seems suspicious
  • Identity Theft: learn about how to prevent identity theft, and steps to take if it happens to you
  • Medicare Scams: these are usually among the most costly. Get medicare information only through trusted channels, verify any voicemails or unsolicited phone calls before acting

Education is Key

First Financial Bank believes education is key to stopping this heinous crime. We want to provide you and your loved ones with up-to-date information on how financial exploitation is evolving and how to best protect yourself and others from becoming a victim. Often times, individuals pretend to be experts in the financial field to gather information and accept payment. Remember, First Financial Bank will never ask for your passwords, pin numbers, or secure access codes.

Tips To Avoid Financial Exploitation

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't
  • Keep personal information private
  • Shred bank statements, old credit and debit cards, credit card offers, and anything with personal information
  • Check your credit report once a year
  • Lock up your checkbook
  • Establish a relationship with personnel at your bank and utilize the staff to review any offers you receive 
  • Determine now who will handle your financials if you might need assistance in the future
  • Get a Power of Attorney that names a trusted friend, family member, or attorney
  • Utilize a bank's Trust Department as an unbiased party
  • Have trusted individuals check your financial decisions
  • Never pay large sums with cash. Use checks credit cards, or debit cards to leave a paper or electronic trail

Information provided by First Financial Bank and the National Adult Protective Services Association