Elder Abuse Awareness

Elder Abuse Awareness

June 13, 2024


Source: Independent Community Banker’s Association


According to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, roughly twenty percent of older Americans lose around $3 billion to a growing number of scams each year. What’s even more staggering is that only one in 44 cases get reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. This puts the true cost as high as $35.5 billion annually.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15th, but at Bank of the Valley we believe that every day is a good day to share tips and provide information for preventing elder financial abuse. As relationship lenders, Community Banks like ours are in a unique position to help our elderly customers protect themselves against these threats by providing consumer education, employee training, and technology to assist in spotting red flags and reporting suspicious activity.

Let’s look at some common scams targeted to elderly individuals:

  • Medicare/Health Insurance Scams: Criminals pose as Medicare or medical supply representatives to obtain personal information or provide bogus services and use the information to bill Medicare or assume an identity to perpetrate fraud. They’ve also recently taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and posed as callers on behalf of a FEMA program that assists with funeral expenses.
    • OUR TIPS:
      • A good rule of thumb is to never share personal or financial information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue.
      • Be mindful that FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance. The government also won’t ask you to pay anything to get this benefit.
  • Zoom Phishing Emails and Internet Fraud: Scammers send phony emails, texts, or social media messages to trick consumers into clicking on bogus links to address “account suspension” or “Meeting” notices. Clicking on these links results in the downloading of malware and exposing of personal information.
    • OUR TIPS:
      • Avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails or texts.
      • If you suspect a problem with an account, contact your Bank or service provider directly.
  • Telemarketing/Phone Scams: The three most common are…
  • 1) the pigeon drop: a scammer pretends to share found money in exchange for a “good faith” payment drawn from the victim’s bank account.
  • 2) The fake accident: scammers call with a fake story that a loved one has been injured in an accident and needs money for medical expenses
  • 3) Charity scams: scammers ask for donations on behalf of a charity for which they are not affiliated with or is not legit.
    • OUR TIPS:
      • Remember that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is
      • If you want to give money, go directly to the source
      • If you are worried about a friend or family member, verify any information with them directly
      • Legitimate businesses/organizations will usually NOT have their employees text you personally. To verify, get the name of the business and look up their phone number on their website to call.

Unfortunately, scams are always changing, making fraud nearly impossible to fully eradicate, but we’ll never stop looking out for your benefit and encourage you to consult the Federal Trade Commission’s “scam alert” page for information about the latest scams targeting consumers at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. Here are some general practices you can put into place now to help prevent becoming a victim in the future:

  • Secure private information (such as Social Security card, passport, bank account numbers, financial statements, medical records, and other legal documents), in a bank safety deposit box.
  • Check your bank accounts and bill statements carefully. If you notice unauthorized charges or unusual activity, alert your bank immediately.
  • Do not disclose personal information, such as bank account numbers or PINs, to anyone claiming to be from an established organization, especially if they ask you to wire funds.
  • Ask [BANK NAME] about available resources to help protect you or your loved ones from scams and exploitation.
  • Plan ahead by giving a trusted person the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you are unable. Make sure your bank has a record of who can manage your money on your behalf.
  • Contact your local adult protective services agency and law enforcement if you have information about a fraud or suspect you may have encountered financial abuse.

If you are ever in doubt or feel like you may be getting targeted by a scammer, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our Branch locations and speak with one of our trained employees.