As the baby boomer population quickly becomes the largest senior demographic in American history, it is increasingly difficult for them to keep keeping their hard-earned investments safe. One study says that over $36 billion – with a “b” – is lost each year by preying on seniors. And there are certainly plenty of scams out there targeting the elderly: roofing scams, Medicare scams, tech support scams, and scams for reverse mortgages. Shockingly, allegedly half of the financial abuse targeting the elderly comes from within a senior’s own family. This type of preying on the elderly is known as “elder financial abuse,” and financial institutions are on the front lines to help make a dent in this growing problem.
Certainly financial institutions already deal with this problem, especially within the branch. Sometimes a bank or credit union teller needs to expand their role and act as a social worker, family counselor, and banker all in one. But this is a lot to ask of a front-line teller. Furthermore, the regulatory landscape in this space is changing, and as awareness of senior scams increases, so will regulatory pressure on financial institutions.
Employees of financial institutions need help.
Furthermore, boomers and their caregivers also need help. There are literally call centers out there that systematically target seniors on the phone to scam them. If one person does not fall for the scam, the call center just hangs up and calls the next victim. It is disgusting, but unfortunately works. They prey on the uninformed. That’s why education and awareness about common scams, and how to handle them, can help shut these call centers down.
Family members of the elderly also need help. They need to know how to navigate very tricky questions about who manages parents’ finances over time. They need to know what to watch out for. And again: since half of the abuse happens within the family, families need to know what to do in those extremely embarrassing and difficult situations where the problem is not an external scammer, but inside the family itself.
While not the only strategy to help combat elder financial abuse, education and awareness is a big part of the solution. And financial institutions – as a pillar of the local community they serve – can be a trusted source of this education. FIs need help in order to help.
As the baby boomers age, the problem of financial elder abuse is not going to go away. For banks and credit unions that want to protect their customers, the time to take active steps is now. For more information on how to create a program to prevent financial elder abuse, please request a demo.