A new program has launched with the goal of educating everyone about this problem
According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Cooperative Credit Union Association (CCUA), two-thirds of caregivers reported that they had an elderly family member who at one time or another was a target of some sort of fraud or scam. In addition, 28 percent of older people were victims of a scam.
The survey also revealed that only 4 percent of seniors had ever taken a financial literacy class. Overall, almost 40 percent of respondents believed their older relatives were “somewhat” or “not at all” financially literate.
Another troubling statistic comes from National Adult Protective Services: Only one in 44 cases of elder financial exploitation is ever reported. Recognizing how much of a problem elder financial fraud is, the CCUA is attempting to do something about it.
“The numbers are alarming and speak loudly,” said CCUA President and CEO Paul Gentile. “We have to take action to educate ourselves and the staff who work in the branches of our member credit unions to recognize the signs of elder financial abuse and know what to do in response to it. We also recognized the need to educate consumers as well. Education leads to better prevention and our Credit Union Senior Safeguard program is being designed to facilitate that effort.”
What the Credit Union Senior Safeguard program entails
Part of the CCUA’s Better Values, Better Banking project, the Senior Safeguard program has two facets. The first involves educating credit union employees on elder fraud and how they can recognize it. Staffers will get training on what to do if elder fraud is spotted. By the first quarter of 2019, Gentile is hopeful that 100 percent of credit union staffs will have gotten this training.
He offers this example of how fraud may not be so obvious:
“Somebody may try to get on the elder’s account as a joint account holder, and that doesn’t sound like a big deal but actually once they’re on as an account holder, if there’s rights to survivorship, everything can become the scammers. If the elder dies, they’ll have full access to the account and there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
The second part of the program will target consumers. A campaign involving TV and radio ads as well as social media will aim to educate people about senior financial abuse. In addition to offering information, these ads will strive to get folks to visit the Better Values, Better Banking site to learn more about Senior Safeguard and what they can do to prevent financial fraud.
Gentile believes the Senior Safeguard program is a great start, but that more needs to be done.
“I’d like to see more awareness of elder financial abuse,” he said. “Maybe there are family members out there who aren’t thinking about this for their elderly parents or siblings—and maybe they’ll be a little more proactive, saying, ‘Boy, well, these things could happen’ to somebody they love.”
It’s important for both seniors and their families to know not only the signs of financial fraud but the steps to take if someone has already been victimized. One of these involves working with an elder financial fraud lawyer, which gives you the best chance of recovering lost funds.
For a free consultation from an experienced attorney, contact the Silver Law Group at 800-975-4345 or by filling out our online contact form.