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Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Elder Financial Exploitation (EFE)

You know the world can be a cruel place when stealing from the elderly is a crime on the rise. We have seen attempts made on our own members here at TCCU, and it’s heartbreaking. This blog post will help you know what to look for so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from these crimes, which often drain people of their life savings.

What is EFE

Elder Financial Exploitation is a type of crime that targets the finances of elderly people either through direct theft or scams designed to steal the wealth of elderly adults. EFE impacts about 10% of elderly people in America each year, at a cost of about $3 billion annually just in the United States. Crime experts actually suspect those numbers could be higher, as this type of crime often goes unreported because of fear or embarrassment. Older adults are targets for several reasons:

  • They have accumulated life-long savings
  • They may face declining cognitive or physical abilities
  • They sometimes are not familiar or comfortable with technology
  • They often have to rely on others who can’t always be trusted (nearly 50% of the time, a “trusted” family member is involved in EFE)

What to Look for

There are two primary types of EFE – Elder Theft and Elder Scams

Elder theft happens when criminals manipulate elderly adults to let them establish control over the victims’ accounts, assets and identity. Often, these criminals establish legal guardianship of and power of attorney for these elderly adults. This is particularly easy for criminals when the victims have dementia. Once they have control over a person’s finances, there’s little other family members can do to reverse it.

In elder scams, criminals defraud victims into sending payments and disclosing personal information under false pretenses – such as in return for a promised benefit or service the victim never receives. In these instances, the victim is usually contacted by phone, robocall, text message or email. It also happens on social media platforms and online dating apps. The criminal works to establish trust with older adults, or they pose as government officials, law enforcement agencies, technical and customer support representatives, social media connections, or family, friends, and other trusted persons.

These scammers are increasingly pressuring victims to make payments through wire transfer, prepaid access cards, gift cards, money orders and even cash via ATM deposits. Some actually pick up cash at the victims’ homes and have even convinced some victims to set up bank accounts at financial institutions where they don’t have other accounts.

Avoid Becoming a Victim

Do not trust people who claim to be government or law enforcement officials with verifying it. Ask them where their office is located or who employs them, then call that office to see if this person really works there. Do not call a number on their business card. Look up the number separately.

Do not believe people who say your credit union is corrupt or engaged in illegal or questionable activities. Credit unions are regulated by the federal government and audited regularly to ensure we operate within the law and keep your money is safe.

Be careful when using dating apps and social media – especially when people you’ve never met are asking you for money after you’ve just met them. It’s a red flag they may be a scammer.

Be wary of anyone who asks you or an elderly loved one to withdraw huge amounts of cash or transfer large amounts of money to a bank account that is not their own. Also be wary of anyone who encourages you or a loved one to open an account at a financial institution where you have no accounts and transfer money to that account.

Do not give strangers (people you don’t know extremely well) access to your bank accounts.

When agreeing to legal guardianship or power of attorney from a family member, consider appointing several family members from different sides of the family so you have a better chance of them not spending your money inappropriately.

If you are experiencing any of these situations, please come to us so we can help you.


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