Senior Citizen Tools for Financial Security
According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA’s) financial education website, mycreditunion.gov, our senior population is the fastest growing segment of our society, and they are also an important part of our country’s economy. America’s increasingly older population is uniquely vulnerable to a broad range of exploitation and abuse. UTELFCU, in conjunction with information provided by NCUA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and several other agencies/resources listed below, would like to create awareness regarding this exploitation and abuse and teach our members how to safeguard their assets as they age in order to maintain a strong financial future.
In September 2013, eight U.S. agencies* overseeing various financial industries came together to publish Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults. According to these guidelines, financial exploitation of senior citizens (elder abuse) “…includes the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets. Recent studies suggest that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse and that only a small fraction of incidents are reported. Older adults can become targets of financial exploitation by family members, caregivers, scam artists, financial advisers, home repair contractors, fiduciaries (such as agents under power of attorney and guardians), and others. Older adults are attractive targets because they may have significant assets or equity in their homes. They may be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, health problems, and/or the recent loss of a partner, family member, or friend”.
According to the CFBP, examples of financial abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Exploitation by an agent under a Power of Attorney or person in a fiduciary relationship.
- Theft of money or property, often by a caregiver or in-home helper;
- Investment fraud and scams, including deceptive “free-lunch seminars” selling unnecessary or fraudulent financial services or products;
- IRS, lottery, romance and sweepstakes scams;
- Scams by telemarketers, mail offers or door-to-door salespersons;
- Computer and Internet scams;
- Identity theft;
- Reverse mortgage fraud; and
- Contractor fraud and home improvement scams
Read more about scams targeted at older Americans.
Also according to the CFBP, understanding what elder financial exploitation can look like and why it can be hard to spot can help you protect yourself, your loved ones, or someone you care for who may be at risk for this kind of abuse.
Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:
- Taking money or property;
- Forging an older person’s signature;
- Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence;
- Using the older person’s property or possessions without permission;
- Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise; and
- Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims’ credit cards without authorization.
The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) recognizes the importance of financial literacy and education and supports the efforts of credit unions to help their members make prudent, personal financial decisions. This is why UTELFCU would like you to consider using the Money Smart for Older Adults Resource Guide. This course was developed through the CFPB and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The Money Smart for Older Adults Resource Guide is a learning module to assist you in how to spot scams and fraud, as well as the Watchdog Alert Handbook from AARP, in which they detail 13 ways con artists steal your money.
The staff of UTELFCU understands that in some cases, victims may be ashamed to admit and/or blame themselves for being naïve or too trusting. Others are in denial or simply unaware of the abuse. Still others are reluctant to report a family member or caregiver either out of love and loyalty, or out of fear of retaliation, of losing the abuser’s support, of not being believed, or of losing their independence. UTELFCU is here to help. If you are a member and suspect that you may be a victim of financial abuse or exploitation, we can act as your advocate and help you safeguard your account, and contact the proper authorities if necessary. You can stop into the office, call us at 315-724-5133, or email us at email@example.com.
The credit union would like to acknowledge the agencies listed below. You will also find links for additional information about what constitutes elder financial exploitation and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Resources and Acknowledgments
National Credit Union Administration – Pocket Cents (Mycreditunion.gov)
The United States Department of Justice – Elder Abuse Resource Roadmap
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – Managing Someone Else’s Money
New York State – New York State Office of Children and Family Services
Federal Trade Commission – Pass it On Campaign
National Council on Aging – Older American’s Act
*Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).