Elder Financial Exploitation by the Numbers

6/15/2022 - By Stephen Helms-MacBeth, CRCM, CAFP

This blog has been updated on 6/15/2022 from its original publishing on 7/11/2019.

For those of you working diligently in the financial industry, we remind you that June is Elder Financial Abuse month. Elder financial exploitation (EFE), a form of Elder Abuse, is the most common form of elder abuse. EFE is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elderly adult's funds, property or resources by another individual. Sadly, this exploitation is alive and well all year round. It wears many masks, including romance scams, person in need scams, prize/lottery scams, predatory financial products and services, and even exploitation or theft by trusted individuals such as family members, fiduciaries and caregivers. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a data spotlight in November 2021 regarding Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on Elder Financial Exploitation. In 2020, financial institutions filed 62,014 SARs involving suspected elder financial exploitation, which is about 300 fewer than the 62,298 that were filed in 2019. In 2020, financial institutions, such as Banks and Credit Unions, filed nearly 60% (an increase of 6% from 2019) of all EFE-related SARs in 2020, while money service businesses (MSBs) accounted for 20% (a decrease of 12% from 2019) of total filings. Other financial institutions, which includes casinos, broker-dealers, insurance companies, mutual funds, loan or finance companies, and housing government-sponsored enterprises represented 21% (an increase of 8% from 2019) of total filings. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has collected 340,898 suspicious activity reports (SARs) from banks, credit unions and other industry participants between 2014 and 2020. For 2020, the total amount involved in elder financial exploitation SARs was $3.4 billion, which is an increase from $2.6 billion in 2019.  

Although the issue itself is heartbreaking, it is encouraging to see our financial institutions reporting suspicious activity and doing their best to protect this vulnerable group. You can learn more about the CFPB data spotlight at Data Spotlight: Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To review ways that financial institutions can further prevent and respond to elder financial exploitation, we encourage you to review the CFPB Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends (February 2019) summary report and to refer to its Appendix C that lists additional related resources. 

FinCEN issued another advisory on Elder Financial Exploitation on June 15, 2022. In 2021 financial institutions filed 72,000 suspicious activity reports related to elder financial exploitation, which is an increase of 10,000 over the previous year. The advisory provides information on common elder scam typologies, behavioral red flags and financial red flags. In addition to filing SARs, FinCEN recommends that financial institutions refer older customers who may be victims of EFE to the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 or 1-833-372-8311. For educational resources on EFE and scams targeting older adults, you can reference the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans at Protecting Older Adults from Fraud and Financial Exploitation.

In 2030, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 and 1 in 5 Americans will be retirement age. The demographics show that the number of potential victims of elder financial abuse will steadily increase in the future. Be sure to review your policies, procedures and resources regarding elder financial abuse and exploitation.  

About the Author | Stephen Helms-MacBeth, CRCM, CAFP
Stephen is a manager in the Financial Institution Advisory Group at Saltmarsh, Cleaveland & Gund. He has been working in the financial institutions industry since 1992, concentrating primarily on compliance, operations and policies and procedures. Stephen currently works with the firm’s financial institution clients providing loan and deposit compliance, Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and compliance review services. Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn.

Related Posts