As the population of elderly Americans with retirement savings grows, so does the opportunity for financial fraud against this often vulnerable group. To compound the problem, technology allows fraudsters to share lists of seniors who have succumbed to fraud, so the same person can be scammed repeatedly.

Kentucky statutes require all citizens to report reasonable suspicion of financial exploitation against adults. Such exploitation can be difficult to detect; it sometimes is perpetrated by family members or close advisors against victims who may be unaware of the exploitation or embarrassed to report it.

Relatives and caregivers can take advantage of the elderly in multiple ways. For example, they may take money or other valuables, without permission, for themselves or to give away to others. They may “borrow” money without repaying it, misuse debit or credit cards, or cash pension or social security checks.

Signs of financial exploitation against the elderly include:

  • Unpaid bills
  • Lack of essential items like food and medicine
  • Unusual bank account activity, including expenditures inconsistent with history, and large unexplained withdrawals
  • Use of ATM withdrawals, if inconsistent with typical transaction activity
  • Changes to wills or other legal documents, especially if they change fiduciaries or beneficiaries
  • Missing valuable items (silver, electronics, art)

Current scams against the elderly, typically perpetrated by strangers, include:

  • Prizes or sweepstakes – A victim is required to send money to cover taxes, shipping, or processing.
  • Investments – Pressure to maximize returns makes seniors vulnerable to persuasion to invest in assets which promise unrealistically high rates of return.
  • Charitable contributions – Fraudsters solicit donations to nonexistent charities or religious organizations.
  • Repairs to home or automobile – Advance deposits may be required, but repairs may not be completed or may be performed at a substandard level.
  • Health, funeral, life insurance – Fraudsters sell policies that duplicate current coverage, or are bogus.
  • Loans and mortgages – Unscrupulous lenders give loans with very high interest rates and hidden fees.

Many agencies are charged with protecting seniors. Federal agencies include the FBI, Postal Service, and Secret Service. State and local police may be involved in investigating consumer fraud. State social service agencies are charged with protecting seniors. In Kentucky, this includes these agencies, among others: Cabinet for Health and Family Services, various Ombudsman programs, Kentucky State Police, Area Agencies on Aging, Office of the Inspector General, and Office of the Attorney General.

Block Insets

Tips to avoid becoming a victim of elder financial abuse:

  • Do not provide your SSN over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know the party you call can be trusted.
  • Do not click on any links in an email from an unknown sender.
  • Do not give others access to your computer or provide security information. If someone contacts you requesting such information and claims to be from your bank or credit card company, for example, hang up and call a verified number for the organization.
  • Check your credit report regularly to ensure that fraudulent new accounts have not been set up in your name.
  • Secure your smartphone and your computer with strong passwords.
  • Shred documents showing your personal information and lock your mailbox; do not leave your wallet in your car.

For more information on how Dean Dorton can help you identify fraud, follow the link below:

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Elizabeth Woodward, CPA/CFF, CFE
Director of Forensic Accounting and Litigation Services • 859.425.1077