KEEPING THE SENIORS IN YOUR LIFE FINANCIALLY PROTECTED
Whether you're a senior or have older people in your life who you care about and want to protect, you'll want to understand more about elder abuse. While concerns may focus on quality of care, health and living conditions, financial elder abuse is actually the most prevalent form of elder abuse in Canada.
As some people age, they may become less technology savvy and more dependent on others for help with their money matters. This can leave them vulnerable to manipulation, coercion or theft. June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of this serious issue. Read on to learn about the warning signs, specifically those related to money, so you can recognize and stop it in its tracks.
What is financial elder abuse?
When someone takes money or assets from an older adult without their knowledge or consent, pressures them for money or assets, or pushes for financial decisions the victim did not want to make, it's considered financial elder abuse. This could be as simple as stealing cash or valuables. Or it could involve taking control of a person's financial affairs, transferring assets and changing key documents, such as wills. It also includes scams that trick older people into sending money under false pretenses.
Beware of common scams
Fraudsters constantly craft new cons, but these often-used scams are worth noting. That's why it's important to educate yourself and the seniors in your life about these types of scams.
- Family emergency scam:
A call comes from someone claiming to be a professional (like a doctor or lawyer) who's trying to help a grandchild or other family member. They outline an urgent situation and request immediate financial aid. Often, they'll say the grandchild is hospitalized and needs treatment, or they're in jail and need funds to get out.
- Prize or inheritance scam:
This scam relies on a victim's excitement about winning something to override their judgment. An unsolicited caller pretends the victim has won or inherited goods or money, then tells them to send a fee to claim the prize.
- Bank investigator scam:
This fraud preys on a person's natural desire to be helpful and defer to authority. A caller claiming to be from a bank asks the victim for help investigating a theft by an employee. This scam solicits the transfer of funds from their personal account, often by wire transfer, prepaid cards or crypto currency. This is something a real bank would never do.
Recognize the warning signs
It's important to understand that financial abuse can be perpetrated by strangers or by people the victim knows like family members or caregivers. Watch for these signs of financial elder abuse.
- Unusual financial transactions:
If you notice unexpected changes in bank balances, unrecognized transactions, missing funds or unauthorized use of your loved one's credit cards or accounts, investigate further. Pay special attention to funds transferred by wire, purchases of gifts or prepaid cards, or crypto currency transactions.
- Changes in financial management:
If someone new signs or cosigns on an elder's accounts, makes adjustments to their financial documents or will, transfers their assets or becomes their power of attorney, it's time to ask questions and investigate further.
- Missing valuables:
The unexplained disappearance of money or valuables should raise a red flag.
- Avoiding discussions about finances:
Look for emotional and behavioral cues that may indicate an older adult is being financially abused. They may seem anxious, uneasy, or provide vague information about their personal finances.
- Reports of unusual interactions:
Pay attention if an older person reports they've received an unexpected telephone call, particularly if they're secretive about it. Scammers will often try to manipulate victims into silence.
If you suspect financial elder abuse, report it immediately to both the police and the financial institution.
Ways to prevent financial elder abuse
Prevention is the best defense against financial elder abuse so use this checklist of best practices below. Share them with your loved ones and talk to them about how to protect themselves:
- Protect financial information and keep it confidential.
- Use two-step verification and voice verification for banking.
- Keep contact information current so your bank can flag suspicious transactions.
- Regularly review bank and credit card statements for unauthorized activity.
- Be cautious of unsolicited text messages, emails, or phone calls, and don't send money to strangers.
- Be wary if asked to pay with an unusual form of payment like gift cards, wire transfers, or crypto currency. These can be difficult to trace, making them favorites among fraudsters.
- If you have concerns regarding a transaction or payment request, discuss it with someone you trust like a family member, friend or your bank.
Whether you're a senior or care for one, it's important to stay vigilant about financial elder abuse. CIBC is dedicated to giving you the tools to spot the signs of fraud. Visit our Privacy and Security resource centre or talk to our team to learn more about the many ways you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones.