Guest Blog by Sam Kunjukunju at the American Bankers Association
Financial exploitation is one of the fastest-growing forms of abuse against seniors. Labeled as a silent epidemic, older adults lose as much as $36.48 billion each year from financial abuse. As America experiences the age-wave, with Baby Boomers transitioning to their “golden years,” scammers are increasingly targeting seniors, their identities, as well as their life savings through the internet.
Tech support scams, in particular, disproportionately affect the elderly. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), older adults filed more reports indicating a loss on tech support scams between 2015 and 2018 than any other fraud category in the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network. These scams often begin with a phone call or a pop-up warning displaying a fake error message with a number to call. Similar to other types of phishing scams, scammers often impersonate representatives from legitimate companies, such as Microsoft, and convince victims to provide remote access to their computers to “repair” a non-existent issue. Once they receive access, the scammers will then scan the computer and seemingly troubleshoot the “problem.” Unbeknownst to the victim, the scammer may install applications to access personal information. After offering fake solutions, the scam artist will ask for payment and may also encourage the victim to sign up for a phony subscription service.
Seniors are also particularly susceptible to romance scams. In this type of scam, victims are often approached online through a dating website or via social media. The scammer feigns romantic interest in the victim fairly quickly, shares a false narrative about his/her location, and cultivates a relationship. As their conversations progress, the scammer asks the senior for financial help. Typically, the scammer requests assistance with travel expenses, unexpected hospital bills, or claims to be dealing with some other pressing issue. In reality, there are no travel plans and there is no emergency. It’s a scam. Once the victim agrees to pay, there will be more requests for money until the victim runs out of funds or realizes and stops.
Losses from abuse are significant and take a toll emotionally, financially and even physically. Victims often become depressed and experience intense feelings of shame as well as fear. Many lose their savings and even their homes as a result of cybercrimes.
But, there is good news. Elder financial fraud and abuse is preventable. Educating older adults, their caregivers, and their families is critical. Banks all across the country are leading the charge through the American Bankers Association Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors program. This national campaign allows any community group or organization to request a free banker-led workshop on avoiding scams, preventing identity theft, and financial caregiving.
Participating bankers share tips on safeguarding assets, discuss how scammers target individuals and highlight available resources for victims. Using the Foundation’s online portal – FinEdLink – organizations can submit a free request by visiting www.aba.com/FinEdLink. Just click the blue request form option to connect with a banker today!
The American Bankers Association Foundation proudly partners with The Cybercrime Support Network (CSN).