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ABA Foundation Joins FBI in Releasing New Guide for Banks to Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation

Guide offers tips and other information to help front-line bank staff detect and prevent elder financial exploitation


In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the American Bankers Association Foundation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation today released a new guide with critically important tips and information to help bank employees detect and prevent elder financial exploitation. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, victims reported more than $3.1 billion in losses from elder financial abuse in 2022, which represents an 84% increase from 2021.

“Safeguarding the financial assets of older Americans is a top priority for banks of all sizes across the country,” said Sam Kunjukunju, vice president, consumer education for the ABA Foundation. “We’re thrilled to partner with the FBI to help further equip bankers everywhere with additional tools to combat these egregious crimes.”

“America’s senior citizens are losing billions of dollars every year to elder financial exploitation,” said Rebecca Keithley, national program coordinator for the FBI’s Elder Justice Initiative. “The FBI is proud of its partnership with the ABA Foundation to educate the public and provide resources to financial institutions, so together we can lessen the financial losses and help prevent our senior citizen population from becoming victims.”

The first part of the new guide provides an overview of elder financial exploitation and the detrimental impact it has on seniors and the economy. Elder financial exploitation can be divided into two main categories - elder theft and elder scams:

  • Elder theft is when trusted individuals steal money from elders including forging checks, using credit cards or bank accounts without permission, or even changing names on wills and other personal documents. This accounts for about two-thirds of all elder financial abuse cases.
  • Elder scams are when a stranger deceives an older adult into willfully transferring their money to them for a misrepresented or non-existent promise of goods, services or benefits. These scams include but are not limited to tech support scams, investment scams, romance scams, government or family imposter scams, and lottery scams.

Criminals often target older Americans as they typically have more wealth relative to younger demographics due to a lifetime of working, investing and saving. Elder financial exploitation may cause victims to lose their life’s savings or homes, as well as suffer from intense fear, shame, anxiety, depression and potentially lose their independence.

The second part of the guide identifies potential financial exploitation red flags. Front-line bank staff can recognize the signs, including any changes in behavior or account activity that may seem suspicious by:

  • Watching for customers who make sudden and unusual changes to their accounts, appear fearful of or submissive to a caregiver, show a sense of sudden urgency or indicate the transaction is for a new online friend or romantic partner
  • Being wary of accompanying individuals who don’t allow the customer to speak or attempt to conduct financial transactions for the customer without proper documentation
  • Looking out for accounts with sudden and abnormal cash withdrawals or wire transfers, statements mailed to locations not stated as the customer’s home, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money, or any transactions that appear out of the ordinary with the customer’s established patterns.

The third and final piece of the guide reminds bankers of the three overarching steps to follow in handling suspected elder financial exploitation—recognize, respond, report:

  • Recognize warning signs such as learning red flags of elder financial exploitation, questioning suspicious transactions or activities, and reviewing prior history of the account to ensure there are no recent changes or uncharacteristic behaviors.
  • Respond to the exploitation by contacting the customer’s trusted third-party contact, escalating the transaction to an appropriate level of management, and delaying or refusing a transaction when permitted by state law and bank policy. 
  • Report the suspicious activity and follow your bank’s protocols while also encouraging fraud and scam victims to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of elder financial exploitation, inform your bank, contact law enforcement and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

More information can be found on ABA Foundation’s Older Americans Resource Page at www.aba.com/OlderAmericans.

For more information and to view the guide, click here.


About the American Bankers Association

The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $23.4 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ approximately 2.1 million people, safeguard $18.6 trillion in deposits and extend $12.3 trillion in loans.

About the ABA Foundation

Through its leadership, partnerships, and national programs, ABA’s Community Engagement Foundation (dba ABA Foundation), a 501(c)3, helps bankers provide financial education to individuals at every age, elevate issues around affordable housing and community development, and achieve corporate social responsibility objectives to improve the well-being of their customers and their communities.

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