June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, an important reminder that older adults are often the targets of financial abuse and exploitation. According to the National Council on Aging, up to five million older Americans are victims of financial abuse each year, with estimated losses of $36.5 billion annually.
We can all take steps to help protect the older adults in our lives — parents, grandparents and neighbors — against fraud and scams.
Watch for these warning signs of elder fraud:
#1: Unusual or Unexplained Financial Activity
Changes in an older loved one's money habits are often the first sign that something is wrong. Look for red flags, such as:
At Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU), we take an active role in the security of our elderly members' accounts. Our partner-employees get to know the members who regularly visit their Member Centers and are trained to recognize unusual patterns and warning signs of elder financial exploitation.
#2: A New, Influential “Friend"
Schemers will often befriend older adults in order to isolate them from caring family members and access their finances. Pay attention to any new, suspicious friends (or romantic interests) that suddenly show up in your older loved one's life, especially if they discourage contact with family members. Talk to your loved one regularly about their personal and financial wellbeing, and the importance of keeping their information private.
#3: Sudden Changes to Financial or Legal Documents
Many elders eventually need help managing their money and financial plans. Unfortunately, this can open the door for dishonest people to take advantage of older adults. In some cases, the financial abuser is someone the victim knows and depends on, such as a close relative or caregiver.
Financial abusers may use their close relationship with an older adult to pressure them into making financial or legal decisions they don't fully understand. It's important to ensure your loved one's legal and estate documents are in order and reflect their wishes. Pay attention if there are any sudden, unexplained changes to wills and trusts, as well as a power of attorney.
You Can Help: Report Elder Fraud
As with all fraud, the sooner elder fraud is reported, the faster it can be addressed. While older adults may be ashamed to admit losing money to financial fraud, early reporting can increase the likelihood of recovering the funds.
If you or someone you love is a possible victim of elder financial abuse, use the Eldercare Locator to contact your local adult protective services agency.
WPCU is Here for You
As your credit union, WPCU is ready to help you take action after fraud or identity theft. If you suspect fraud, call our Member Help Center immediately at (800) 762-0047 for help securing your accounts.
Looking for more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources? Visit our fraud education and awareness page.