Regions BankBy ROBERT LEARD,
It may be hard to believe. But it happens. Entirely too much.
In one case, an elderly bank customer receives a call from someone posing as his son-in-law. The caller says he’s in jail and needs help. He tells the elderly man someone will pick him up and take him to a bank so the man can withdraw money to cover bail.
In a separate case, an elderly person gets a call from someone posing as a relative stranded in Jamaica. The caller urges the elderly person to head to a bank and wire money to help the “relative” get home.
More recently, an elderly person gets checked out of an assisted-living center. A group of people try convincing him they’ve come to take care of him. Instead, they’re trying to drain his bank accounts by preying on his confusion.
Sadly, each of these are real-life financial exploitation attempts made on Regions Bank customers. Thankfully, the actions of Regions associates helped detect and stop the abuse.
Banks across the country are increasingly serving as watchdogs to protect the elderly. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says in 2017, financial institutions filed more than 63,000 elder financial exploitation reports detailing $1.7 billion in suspected fraud.
At Regions, our head of Corporate Security, Don White, says bankers serve a crucial role.
“We are often the first line of defense when it comes to noticing this,” White recently told bank associates. “Beyond family members or other trusted parties, they come to their local branch to take care of their financial needs.”
So while we’re on guard, the best protection for our loved ones is when all of us are looking out together.
The CFPB says elder financial exploitation frequently follows these four patterns:
• Romance scams – An older customer is scammed into transferring a large amount of money to a fiancée so she can travel to visit him.
• Exploitation by a family member or fiduciary – A bank notices recent purchases and withdrawals using an elderly customer’s debit and ATM cards at places not normally patronized by the customer. The customer also visits the bank several times to make cash withdrawals accompanied by the same relative.
• Theft by caregiver – A bank notices an unusual amount of activity on an older person’s account, including large ATM withdrawals. In addition, an individual with a different last name has been cashing large checks drawn on the account.
• Money mule – An elderly customer is tricked into receiving and sending money transfers, acting as an agent for a “large company” and subsequently sending funds overseas.
The following red flags could also indicate an individual is a victim of elder financial abuse:
• Several new withdrawals or large withdrawals that are inconsistent with the person’s banking patterns
• A relative or caregiver who seems overly controlling but is failing to provide for the elder’s needs
• A new person very involved in the elder’s life with no logical reason for being there
• Changes in an older person’s appearance or behavior
• Lack of amenities the victim could have previously afforded
• A vulnerable elder has signed over Powers of Attorney, a new will, etc., but is unable to comprehend the transaction or what it means.
If you see the signs of elder financial exploitation, report it to law enforcement. If there is immediate danger, call 911. If the financial abuse involves a scam, tell the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. You can also reach the FTC at (202) 326-2222.
Further, Adult Protect Services at the Mississippi Department of Human Services can offer additional resources at the following link. https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/adults-seniors/adult-protective-services/
We have additional information on regions.com. Once there, just search for “elder,” and free information will be available to you. This is for customers and non-customers alike.
Elder financial abuse is an urgent issue affecting our communities across Mississippi and beyond. But awareness can be the best defense. Take some time to learn more. And join us as we work to protect the elderly in our community.