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By Heritage Bank on June 13, 2024
2 minute read

Protect the Seniors in Your Circle Against Financial Fraud

2024 marks the start of the Silver Tsunami, the period when the largest number of Baby Boomers turn 65. And in an era when more people are living longer, many of those boomers are looking after parents and grandparents. Scammers have taken note and increasingly targeted seniors.

Through the telephone, internet and mail, fraudsters are reaching out to charm, frighten and trick the elderly out of their savings and personal information. Financial institutions report $27 billion in elder fraud every year. One study in the American Journal of Public Health reported that as many as 1 in 18 "cognitively intact, community-dwelling" older Americans are scammed annually.

Some of the scammers are complete strangers. Others are closer to home. Some of the most prevalent forms of financial fraud among the elderly are instigated by their adult children.

The silver lining about elder fraud abuse is that there are ways to fight it.

1) Educate the seniors in your life. If you are a senior, spread the word in your circle. Heritage Bank offers several blogs about financial fraud. Read them. Email the URLs. Use them in your social media posts. There is also great information through the Federal Trade Commission and from local senior organizations. Search it out. Stop and read information you come about. 

2) Master technology designed for your security. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Establish strong passwords, use two-factor authentication and secure financial documents to safeguard personal information and financial information.

3) Don’t panic. Fraudsters rely on flustering their targets by masquerading as government officials or even your bank. The most concerning scammers are using AI to pretend to be family members calling about a personal crisis. They insist quick action is necessary to avoid dire consequences.

If you receive a call, email text that makes your heart race, take a beat. Breathe, think, then call someone you trust to ask what they think about the exchange. Call your banker, a family member or a friend who helps you reason through problems. Heritage Bankers help local people with questions about suspicious communications even when they are not our customers. We’re a community bank, so we take care of our neighbors.

Don’t let anyone tell you not to seek out advice or to act immediately without fully understanding the situation or the consequences of what you’re being asked to do. Above all, protect your personal information and financial account information.

4) Maintain a circle of trust. Seniors who become isolated are the most vulnerable to fraud. It’s important for the elderly person to have relationships with several family members, friends as well as with trustworthy advisors like a banker, attorney and accountant.

Unfortunately, some family members will encourage a parent or elderly relative to depend on them entirely, making it simpler to withdraw money from their accounts or release control of key assets. So, some of the most isolated seniors might live with their adult child or be in regular contact with him or her. Appointing a trusted contact for financial accounts can provide an extra layer of security for the senior and for the adult child if family members make accusations.

5) If you suspect fraud, report it. If you suspect financial abuse, it's vital to report the matter to authorities, such as Adult Protective Services. Legal advice might also be necessary. Use the federal government’s Eldercare Locator to find qualified counsel.

Heritage Bank. Member FDIC.

Published by Heritage Bank June 13, 2024