June is Elder Abuse Awareness month. It’s a reminder that, whether you’re a senior or you care for one, it’s important to stay vigilant about financial elder abuse. Financial abuse is actually the most common form of elder abuse in Canada.1 It can take many forms, from soliciting for fake charities to telemarketing scams and identity theft.
What is financial elder abuse?
Financial elder abuse happens when someone takes money, property or assets from an older person without their knowledge, understanding or consent. This includes the misuse of funds or abusing the control of a senior’s financial resources. It may occur as a result of cognitive decline, increased dependence, or trust associated with caregivers or family members. A lack of knowledge about technology or the kinds of scams that can happen, may also lead to financial elder abuse. Common signs of financial exploitation may include:
• Unexpected changes in bank account balances or banking practices
• Allowing a new friend or trusted acquaintance to make decisions on their behalf
• Unauthorized or unexplained financial account withdrawals
• Disappearing funds or valuable possessions
• Unanticipated transfer of assets to a family member or friend
• Sudden changes to a will or other important financial documents
Types of financial elder scams
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the top fraud types affecting seniors are:
Emergency: A fraudster either makes a phone call or emails the victim claiming to be a friend or family member, such as a grandchild, who is in trouble and requires money immediately.
Romance: Fraudsters create online profiles and pose as companionship seekers. They try to develop an emotional attachment with the victim and then share a fabricated story that often leads to asking for financial assistance.
Prize: Consumers are informed that they won a lottery or sweepstake even though they’ve never purchased a ticket or entered to win. Prior to receiving any winnings, the victim will be asked to pay upfront fees.
Bank investigator: Scammers call consumers claiming to be a financial institution or a major credit card provider. They then say they’re investigating unauthorized activity on the consumer’s account, and need remote access to their device to help catch the criminal.
Extortion: This happens when someone unlawfully obtains money, property or services from a person, entity or institution through coercion.
Service: Often involve offers for telecommunications, internet, finance, medical, and energy services.
How to prevent financial elder abuse
The best safeguards are to create a strong support system to keep an eye on elderly loved ones. A family conversation can help you gain insight into your loved one’s affairs and mental state. It’s also just as important to stay informed. “Understanding how fraudsters work and how they can potentially target your older family members is critical to preventing financial elder abuse,” says Raynier Ramasra, CIBC Senior Director, Fraud Risk Management. “It’s important to always be on guard, as fraudsters are consistently coming up with new ways to deceive.”
How to report it if it does happen?
If you or someone you know might be a victim of elder financial abuse, take action by reporting it to your financial institution’s fraud department and your local police. As always, you can reach out to us if you have questions or concerns.
CIBC is dedicated to giving you the tools and tips needed to spot the signs of fraud. Visit our Privacy and Security resource centre and learn more about the many ways you can safeguard yourself and your loved ones.