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Elder Abuse Awareness Month: 10 Red Flags to Spot Elder Financial Abuse

June 14, 2024

As we recognize Elder Abuse Awareness this June, it’s critical to address the growing concern and volume of senior financial abuse. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (or IC3), scams targeting individuals aged 60 and older caused over $3.4 billion in losses in 2023—an increase of approximately 11% from the year prior, with the average victim losing $33,915.

At Middlesex, we’re committed to protecting our customers from financial exploitation and providing education on ways to prevent this from happening. 

“The key to spotting financial abuse is to look for change in a person’s established financial patterns,” said Liz Hacquebord, SVP, director of financial fraud analysis & BSA officer. “By proactively monitoring unusual transactions and behavior, we can help identify irregularities and protect our senior customers from being taken advantage of by bad actors.”

Below are 10 red flags to watch out for. Please share this information with those in your life who may benefit from learning more. 

1. Sudden changes in bank account activity: Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals. 

2. Upgrading bank accounts: Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need. This is a tactic intentionally meant to confuse the older person so they have less control.

3. Frequent withdrawals: From ATMs, bank accounts, or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain. This behavior is unusual for many elderly individuals who may be pressured by someone else to do so. 

4. A new “best friend” or caregiver: Be cautious if a new person quickly becomes involved in a senior’s life, especially if they begin accompanying them to the bank. This could be a tactic to gain trust and access to their funds. 

5. Unpaid bills or sudden non-sufficient fund activity: This could be a sign that someone is mismanaging or misappropriating their funds. 

6. Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties: This could indicate that someone else is manipulating the senior into draining their accounts. 

7. Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money: These transactions may indicate that someone else is accessing their funds without proper authorization. 

8. Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery: If you suspect this, talk with the senior about recent check activity and review their account for any discrepancies. Inform the senior’s financial institution about the suspected activity and request stop payments on any suspicious checks. 

9.  Checks written as “loans” or “gifts”: This may indicate that someone else has access to the senior’s checkbook. 

10. Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer when discussing finances: Emotional changes may indicate that they are in distress and something is wrong. 

Steps to take if you spot any of these red flags:

1. Have a conversation: Approach the senior with sensitivity to understand the context behind their actions. Involve trusted individuals such as family and friends who can provide support and perspective.

2. Secure financial accounts: Enable transaction alerts and work with the bank to establish limits on wire-transfers. 

3. Report suspicious activity to the senior’s financial institution: One of the biggest benefits of working with a local community bank like Middlesex is that we build relationships and get to know our customers. We have protocols in place to help protect our customers, especially when they visit a branch looking to take out large sums of money.  

If you suspect elder abuse, talk to the individual to determine who is involved and what has happened. Contact us at 1-877-463-6287 or any other financial institution that may be involved as soon as possible for further assistance.

By taking proactive steps to communicate, assess, educate, and report suspicious activity, you can protect older adults from financial harm and ensure their financial security. 

Check out our additional tips to protect seniors and visit our Security Center to learn more. 
by Middlesex Savings Bank