Posted June 1, 2022
Each year, June 15 is recognized as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Hawaii State FCU is committed to bring awareness about elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of seniors and what people can do to stop it.
Elder financial abuse affects millions of seniors every year and accounts for billions of dollars in fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2021, although individuals ages 70 and older made up just 16 percent of all reported fraud cases, the median reported financial loss for these elderly victims was $1,150 – more than double the median financial loss reported by younger victims ages 20 to 69.
If you or a loved one are concerned about the risks of falling victim to elder financial abuse or fraud, here are some simple things you can do to protect yourself:
Don’t give personal or financial account information over the phone, unless you initiated the call.
Calls from scammers claiming to bill collectors or salespeople are becoming increasingly common. Never give your credit card, bank account, Social Security or Medicare information to anyone over the phone, especially if you did not initiate the call. If in doubt, verify that the call is legitimate by contacting the number on your statement or the company’s official website – avoid using information provided to you by the caller.
Don’t purchase gift cards to pay for fees.
The FTC reports that a majority of financial scams targeting seniors consist of telephone calls where victims are tricked or coerced into purchasing gift cards as a form of payment. Never purchase gift cards to pay for alleged fines, penalties, or taxes or fees for sweepstakes winnings. Legitimate businesses do not require these types of payment methods.
Use caution when using public Wi-Fi.
Many shopping centers, restaurants and businesses now offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. Although convenient, these connections are often not secure. Avoid accessing bank accounts or making online purchases when on public Wi-Fi.
Take time to protect your older loved ones.
Often times, elderly victims of financial abuse are too ashamed to come forward. If you have older family members or loved ones, be on alert for warning signs that they may be the victim of financial abuse:
- The senior suddenly appears confused or afraid.
- A caregiver refuses access to the senior, or tries to manage financial transactions on their behalf without permission.
- There are unusual changes to the senior’s financial accounts, including large withdrawals, new individuals added to accounts, or sudden and unexplained use of credit or debit cards.
- Essential bills like a mortgage or utilities go unpaid, despite the senior having adequate funds.
- The senior receives a large number of phone calls, mail or emails for sweepstakes, subscriptions, or promotions promising money or free gifts.
If you believe you’re the victim of financial fraud, make sure to report it immediately. Contact your financial institution or credit card company, notify local law enforcement and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. For more tips on avoiding common scams, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.