The number of elderly victims impacted by fraud has risen at an alarming rate. In 2021, over 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $1.7 billion. This is a 74% increase in losses over 2020.
The issue of elder financial abuse is likely to continue to grow as an average of 10,000 Americans turn 65 a day, a pace expected to continue through 2030 when all baby boomers will be older than 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Several reasons are attributed to why elder financial abuse and exploitation continues:
- Increased social media use by older Americans
- Seniors still have landline numbers listed in phone books, making them an easier target for telephone scammers
- Many seniors are baby boomers and they control a vast amount of wealth that is targeted by fraudsters
It’s important to be aware of scams. Many scams targeting older individuals involve fraudulent wire transfers reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s some important tips to help you detect and shut down scams.
TECH SUPPORT FRAUD
Tech Support Fraud is the most reported fraud among elderly victims. Tech support scammers impersonate well-known tech companies, offering to fix non-existent technology issues or renewing fraudulent software or security subscriptions. However, in 2021, there has been an increase in complaints reporting the impersonation of customer support in the following fields: financial and banking institutions, utility companies, or virtual currency exchanges.
Many victims report being directed to make wire transfers to overseas accounts, purchase large amounts of prepaid cards, or mail large amounts of cash via overnight or express services.
A new trend has tech support fraudsters telling victims that their identity has been stolen resulting in unauthorized withdrawals from the victim’s account. One elderly victim lost over $600k when they wired funds as instructed. The fraudsters told them there were unauthorized account withdrawals and that they needed to wire the funds from their account to a protected investment account.
In another sophisticated elder abuse case, an elderly victim was contacted by a fraudster posing as a bank employee (Bank A) where the member held an account. The fraudster told the member that their account at Bank A, as well as accounts the member had at other institutions had been compromised.
This was a sophisticated scam that involved multiple fraudsters contacting the member, including one posing as an FBI agent. The fraudsters convinced the member that in order to protect their money, they needed to wire funds from accounts, including their credit union account, at other institutions to their bank account and that the member must keep this a secret while the FBI investigated the case. The member was instructed to wire funds from accounts at other institutions to their credit union account. Then instructed to wire funds from their credit union to a third-party, which turned out to be a digital asset firm to purchase cryptocurrency.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Elder financial abuse is a growing issue for credit unions and while there is legislation to protect the elderly, credit unions are often in the position to detect and protect their elderly members from financial exploitation. New federal and state laws prompt credit unions, like OE Federal, to take an active role in trying to address fraud and scams that target older members.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Never give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you. If you receive a call about a computer problem, hang up. If you suspect something is wrong with your computer or believe the scammer obtained access to it, bring it to a reputable company for a malware check.
- Don’t trust phone numbers provided in an email, voicemail, or popup ad. If you want to call the company, use the customer service number on their official website.
- If you are asked to wire money from a recent deposit or overpayment, discuss the situation with a banker, trusted friend, or family member. Be truthful about the situation since many scammers direct you to lie about why you’re sending money.
If you would like to report financial fraud, please contact your local FBI or online at https://tips.fbi.gov. You may also wish to contact the United States Attorney’s Office where you are located or where the fraud was committed.
*Information provided by CUNA Mutual Group