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How to Spot the Signs of Elder Fraud

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month, a reminder for all of us to look out for the warning signs of elder abuse — including financial abuse. According to AARP, older Americans lose about $4.8 billion a year to financial abuse and fraud, but because most incidents go unreported, the actual amount is likely much higher.

Why do scammers target older adults?

Anyone can become a victim of fraud, but criminals often go out of their way to target older adults. Why? First, many older adults have built significant savings and a strong credit score over the years. Another reason is that older adults tend to be polite and trusting and less cyber-savvy than younger adults. They may also be vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive impairments and other health issues.​​

Seniors are not always victimized by strangers. All too often, relatives, friends or acquaintances take advantage of their relationship with an older adult to steal their money or assets.  

Know the warning signs of elder fraud

Elder financial fraud is preventable if you know what to look for. Keep an eye out for these warning signs, whether for yourself or an older loved one:

#1: Unusual financial activity

Sudden changes to your loved one's typical financial behaviors may point to financial abuse or fraud. Examples might include making large, frequent account withdrawals or transferring money to new “friends."

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) takes a proactive role in securing our elderly members' accounts and identifying changes in their usual financial behavior, including their check-writing patterns and account activity. If suspicious activity is identified on your account, you'll be contacted about the authenticity of the transaction in question. It's just one more way we're looking out for the best interest of our members.

#2: Account overdrafts or unpaid bills

If your loved one is suddenly having trouble paying their utility or credit card bills, it could mean someone else has access to their funds. Don't hesitate to speak up if you suspect something's wrong.

#3: Mood or personality changes

Financial abuse takes an emotional toll on older adults, especially if they're being victimized by someone they love and trust. Pay close attention if an older adult begins to isolate and withdraw from their family and friends. Simply checking up on elderly neighbors and loved ones can make a big difference in preventing fraud.

#4: Unexplained changes to wills, trusts or power of attorney documents

Financial abusers may convince older adults to add their names to legal documents in order to gain control of their assets and make financial decisions on their behalf. Many times, abusers rush older adults into signing paperwork they haven't read or don't fully understand.

How to report elder fraud

If you or someone you love may have been a victim of elder fraud, use the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects older adults and their families to local services. To report any type of scam, visit ftc.gov/complaint.

As always, WPCU is here to help you protect your personal and financial information and avoid becoming a victim of fraud. For more helpful and timely fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, visit WPCU.coop/StopFraud.​