Financial Abuse Often Goes Unreported

Although according to a recent study, financial abuse of elders is soaring, not enough banks and financial institutions are reporting suspected cases of abuse.  In the United States, law requires banks, brokers, insurance companies, check cashing services and even casinos to report suspected cases of elder abuse to the Treasury Department data base.  But as reported by Forbes, fewer than one-third of financial institutions report alerts of suspected abuse to local law enforcement.

Between 2013 and 2017, the number of flagged potential financial elder abuse cases soared to 63,500; a four-fold annual increase.   But without proper local reporting, older adults may not be getting the protection they need through adult protective services agencies and other resources.   More reporting of suspected elder abuse will also lead to more investigations and prosecutions of crimes, helping to protect a growing vulnerable senior population. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report also urges local authorities to tap into the Treasury’s database themselves to help bolster ongoing investigation and look for new cases, increasing the number of prosecutions.  Greater law enforcement involvement and prosecution in the growing number of elder abuse cases could help serve as a deterrent to future abuse. 

According to the National Council on Aging,  elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans anywhere between $2.9 billion and $36.5 billion annually.  Financial exploitation and other forms of elder abuse are likely under-reported; about 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse but studies suggest that only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities.  Financial abuse not only robs older adults of their resources, it affects their quality of life and many never recover financially. 

Learn more about how to protect yourself or an older loved one from financial abuse and fraud through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

Tips to Protect Against Fraud or Abuse

  • Monitor bank accounts regularly and report suspected exploitation
  • Allow a trusted family member or friend to monitor transactions without giving access to funds
  • Ask your bank about convenience or agency accounts to set up a trusted helper with money management 
  • Create a power of attorney with a trusted person to make financial decisions if you are unable
  • Ask your financial institution about resources to protect yourself against scams and exploitation

Source:  CFPB Blog