Elder financial exploitation has been a top concern for credit unions for many years, as credit unions were built upon the philosophy of protecting their members’ finances. On June 25, Ohio’s credit unions join the state in recognizing and opposing elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the number of Americans over 65-years-old will nearly double by 2050, growing from 43.1 million in the most recent census to 83.7 million. That creates new victims for those hoping to abuse or defraud the elderly.

Current studies suggest that 10% of seniors may suffer some form of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. Other studies show older adults may suffer billions in losses because of financial fraud. Credit unions make knowing their members a priority; thus, connections made at the teller-line put credit union in the position to know when something seems “off” or the older member seems worried or confused.

Mitchell J. Fallis, Chief Financial Officer for VacationLand Federal Credit located in Sandusky, Ohio, offers the following general steps to report elder financial fraud and/or exploitation for victims or those who suspect that a friend or loved one might be a victim.

  1. Collect Contact information of possible victim including name, address and phone number.
  2. Who is exploiting the elder?
  3. If you suspect it is the caregiver or family member, contact the local Adult Protection Services or local law enforcement
  4. If the exploitation is by public fraud or scams, report to the Ohio Attorney General at 1.800.282.0515.
  5. To report any other kind of elder abuse in Ohio, call the Ohio Department of Health at 1-800-342-0553 or visit http://ohiohopes.org/elder-abuse/reporting-and-how-to-report/.

5 signs of financial exploitation among the elderly

  • Lack of knowledge or confusion about major financial issues. 
    Be wary if a previously-sharp older person suddenly can’t remember making major transactions they allegedly authorized, including large withdrawals. If they have begun to experience diminished mental capacity, their finances should be monitored closely to prevent irrational spending. But the lapses could also be occurring because somebody has been acting fraudulently, forging signatures on withdrawal slips and stealing money from his or her account.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations. If an older person on a steady, fixed income suddenly can’t seem to pay their bills or afford the basics, a red flag should be raised among their family members and friends. At this time family and friends should make sure nobody is stealing or scamming money out of the elderly person’s accounts.
  • Suspicious behavior by family members and/or close confidants. Unfortunately, family members and close friends are often the culprits when an elderly person is financially exploited. Other family members and confidants should become suspicious if a person especially close to the elderly person suddenly makes a lifestyle change, including driving a new car or quitting his or her job. It should also be considered suspicious if the family member constantly answers for the elderly person when questions regarding money arise.
  • Abrupt changes in will or other financial documents. Family members and friends should pay close attention if an elderly person makes an abrupt change to his or her will. Make sure he or she can explain why they made the change. Too often, elderly adults can be bullied or scammed into changing their wills and other financial paperwork by people they believe to be trustworthy.
  • Procuring services that aren’t necessary. Check into any person or company offering expensive services to an older person that don’t seem necessary. It’s possible that individual or entity might actual be preying upon the trusting nature of older adults, not performing a helpful service.

Learn how a credit union can help protect your money by visiting www.aSmarterChoice.org.

About The Ohio Credit Union League (OCUL)

With offices in Columbus, OCUL is a state trade association representing 276 credit unions and their 2.94 million members. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions owned and democratically-controlled by their members. Ohio credit unions provide savings, loans, and other consumer financial services to their member-owners. To learn more, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org