Every year, we are thoughtfully reminded to pay extra respect to our elderly with the national holiday recognizing Grandparents Day across this country. Whether it’s a grandparent, an elderly neighbor or a good friend who gets the extra hug, card or gift, the occasion offers a reminder to check-in on the well-being of that special elderly person in your life. And should serve as a reminder to keep tabs all year-round.

Overall health, wellness and living conditions generally come to mind first, but considering the financial well-being of your elderly loved ones is also critical.

Financial exploitation of vulnerable adults is a growing problem that causes deep emotional and financial trauma. In the financial services industry we are working to educate our employees and the public to help stop this exploitation.

Exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult for his or her own personal benefit. Experts say that as America ages, financial exploitation is rising.

Each year, elderly Americans lose almost $3 billion because of exploitation, according to The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse. Because the crime is often underreported, it is hard to know how many elderly people are affected each year. And while stranger exploitation does happen, perpetrators are often family members, neighbors or caregivers.

So who is vulnerable?

PNC regards any person age 60 or older as a vulnerable person regardless of mental capacity. Vulnerable adults are also those age 18 or older who are unable to care for or make decisions for themselves because of diminished physical or mental capacity. Business owners are at risk if they fall into these groups.

Recognizing abuse

Here are some red flags that could indicate financial exploitation of an older or vulnerable adult. These are not the only scenarios, but are common indications of exploitation that we look for:

  • Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum ATM withdrawals
  • Sudden unpaid bills or non-sufficient funds activity
  • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the customer
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
  • Disregarding penalties while losing CDs or accounts
  • Withdrawal requests when the customer appears vulnerable and financially exploitable

Unusual or strained interactions with caregivers or others may indicate a problem. We also watch for these signs:

A caregiver or others who show excessive interest in the customer’s finances or assets, does not allow the customer to speak for himself, or is reluctant to leave the customer’s side during conversations.

The vulnerable adult shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or placement in a nursing home if money is not given to a caretaker.

Bank employees unable to speak directly with the elderly individual, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her.

A new caretaker, relative, or friend begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the customer without proper documentation.    

The customer lacks knowledge about his or her financial status or is suddenly reluctant to discuss financial matters.

If a PNC employee suspects exploitation, he or she must report it immediately after the customer interaction. If you are not an employee but believe you have seen something suspicious, what do you do?

Report your suspicions to local law enforcement and the vulnerable person’s financial institution. You can also report suspicions to Adult Protective Services in your state.

By being more aware of these signs and being vigilant, we can work together to stop the scourge of financial exploitation of our most vulnerable citizens.

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