Understanding Financial Exploitation

Learn how you can protect yourself and loved ones.

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Looking out for you
 

Preventing financial exploitation. Our top priority.

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Why I Care
 

A personal story about financial exploitation

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Understanding Financial Exploitation

Financial Exploitation and the Elderly

 

 


 

Anyone can become a victim of financial exploitation. But, when it happens to the elderly, these individuals have no means to recover what has taken a lifetime to earn and save. First Financial Bank is committed to stopping financial exploitation through partnerships with law enforcement, education in our communities and through training programs that allow our employees to identify and stop fraudulent transactions before they happen.

 
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Simply defined, financial exploitation occurs when a person or entity takes real or personal property with the intent to wrongfully use or defraud. Our senior population is especially susceptible for the following reasons:

  • Trust: Senior citizens are typically trusting of those they perceive to be experts in a given area.
  • Assets: The senior citizen community holds a majority of the nation’s wealth.
  • Financial Dependency: Senior citizens often require the help of caretakers to handle financial/business decisions and often readily accept perceived help. They also rely on others in day-to-day affairs.
  • Technically Un-Savvy: In general, our senior community is typically not aware of newer financial tools or social platforms that may reveal personal information.
  • Disability/Impairment: Physical and mental impairment leaves many seniors vulnerable.
  • Isolation: Without family, friends and trusted financial advisors to regularly check on the physical and financial well-being of a senior citizen, fraud can go undetected.
  • Shame: Too often, financial exploitation of the elderly is not reported because the victim fears the loss of independence or simple embarrassment.

Today’s fraudsters use sophisticated tools and tactics. The scams are always changing but almost always promise unrealistic returns. Often out of a desire to leave a legacy for younger family members, the elderly are especially vulnerable to scams that offer additional wealth. Some of the most prevalent exploitive scams include:

Stranger Scams

  • Lottery or Sweepstakes: Victims are told they have won the lottery but will need to pay a fee to claim prizes.
  • IRS/Social Security Scam: Victims are told they owe money to the government. They are threatened by government impersonators with criminal charges if they do not wire balance owed within a very short amount of time—usually just a couple of hours.
  • Home Repair: Victims are required to pay, in advance, for unnecessary work and materials or they are charged for work that didn’t take place. Often, if work is completed, victims are required to pay an unreasonable fee for services.
  • Charitable Giving: Victims are convinced to “gift” money to a non-existent charity.
  • Telemarketing Scams: Victims pay for a product or service that will never be delivered.
  • Utility/Alarm service person: Posing as trusted professionals, fraudsters gain entry to victim’s home. One fraudster distracts the victim while the other steals valuables or financial documents.
  • Grandparent Scam: Victim receives a call that a family member has been injured and needs money for medically necessary transport. Another variant of this scam includes claims that a younger family member has been arrested and will be held until money is wired to a specified location.
  • Investment Scams: Included in these scams are advanced fee schemes, offshore investment opportunities, Ponzi/pyramid schemes, prime bank scams and commodity scams.

Financial exploitation is not limited to mysterious con artists on the other end of a phone line. Those who most often commit financial abuse are in a position of trust. These individuals often exhibit resentment toward the victim, are financially unstable, have addiction problems or other instability issues. They include:

  • Family members.
  • Caregivers.
  • Nursing homes and staff.
  • Guardians, Conservators and other Fiduciaries.
  • Housekeepers and other home service providers.

Abuse at the hands of a close relative or can happen in a variety of ways:

  • Power of Attorney Abuse: Individual uses Power of Attorney to access victim’s accounts or identity for personal gain or profit.
  • Debit and Credit Card Fraud: Items purchased by a family member that do not relate to health and well-being of the victim.
  • Account Access: Use of victim accounts for personal gain.
  • Medical: Denying victim needed medical care or prescribed medicines.

Sadly, when a family member or caretaker is perpetrating financial fraud against elders in their care, it is often accompanied by acts of neglect and physical abuse. If you suspect fraud or abuse is happening, call local law enforcement immediately.

 

 

Recognizing financial exploitation is often difficult. Once victimized, senior citizens are reluctant to report being scammed out of fear of losing independent living status or because they are simply embarrassed. However, there are some signs that can indicate possible financial exploitation from the perspective of a financial institution:

  • Victim suddenly changes how they handle routine transactions.
  • Victim withdraws large sums of cash without wanting to share details.
  • Once friendly with banking staff, the victim now appears withdrawn.
  • Victim involves a stranger in financial transactions that result in higher than usual cash withdrawals.
  • Victim mentions that they no longer receive bank-issued mail or important documents.
  • Victim initiates a large wire transfer to a foreign country.
  • Victim makes changes to property titles, wills, Power of Attorney and other legal documents without fully understanding the consequences of those actions.
  • Victim mentions the lack of utilities and other amenities despite having funds to pay for them.
  • Victim mentions that property has been stolen from the home.

Other indications of financial exploitation include changes in behavior towards family and friends, reluctance to share information about daily life, anxiety, and depression.

Education about financial exploitation is the first step in curbing this heinous crime. By providing workshops to community organizations, churches, senior living centers and other associated organizations, First Financial Bank is working to create awareness among those most affected.

First Financial Bank has also partnered with multiple law-enforcement agencies to educate the public while working to identify individuals who are perpetrating fraudulent activity.

You can help by sharing this information through social media channels, with family and friends and within your community. Below, you will find more helpful tips and links to agencies that can assist if you or a loved one have been a victim of financial exploitation.

Tips to help you avoid financial exploitation.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
  • Keep personal information private.
  • Shred bank statements, old credit & debit cards, anything with personal information.
  • Check your credit report once a year.
  • Lock up your checkbook.
  • Establish a relationship with personnel at your bank.
  • Determine now who will handle your financial affairs when you need assistance.
  • Get a Power of Attorney naming a trusted friend, family member, or attorney.
  • A bank's Trust Department can be an unbiased party.
  • Have trusted individual check financial decisions.
  • Never pay large sums with cash. Use checks or credit cards to create a paper trail.
 


Helpful Links:

Texas department of adult protective services provides prevention tips and a simple way to report suspected abuse. suspected abuse, by law, must be reported. TDAPS can also be reached by calling 800-252-5400.

The Texas Attorney General’s office is an excellent resource for learning about scams that target senior citizens. Check out this top ten list of current scams . If you suspect fraud or abuse you can contact attorney general’s office at 800-252-8011.

The national council on aging is another great resource for learning about the latest fraud efforts. The NCOA also provides links to tools for determining your economic health.

Download your free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com

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First Financial Bank in the Community

First Financial Bank Leads the Way
in Prevention of Financial Exploitation

 

By Loretta Fulton June 18, 2015

The numbers are staggering:

  • 2 million people a year are victims of elder financial abuse
  • 20 percent of seniors have been or will be victims of fraud schemes
  • $2 billion in assets have been lost by seniors through fraud

The statistics may be staggering, but First Financial Bank customers can rest assured that absolutely everything possible is being done to ensure that they don’t become a statistic, too. The bank created its own in-house Fraud Busters program to train employees to be the first line of defense against potential scams.

 
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Every day, sometimes many times a day, alert employees are spotting fraud  attempts and stopping them cold. To add to that protection, the bank is working closely with law enforcement, Adult Protective Services and the Better Business Bureau to make sure all bases are covered.

The proactive approach is working. Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge was present for the launching of the Elderly Financial Exploitation and Abuse Awareness and Prevention Program. He had nothing but praise for what First Financial Bank is doing to ensure its customers aren’t the next victims of fraud.

The Partnership with First Financial Bank is a great step in the right direction."
- STAN STANDRIGE, Abilene Police Chief

“The partnership with First Financial Bank is a great step in the right direction,” Standridge said.
A key ingredient of the prevention program is training frontline tellers for tell-tale signs of fraud. When any type of financial irregularity is spotted, the bank employee will alert a superior to review the matter. If warranted, the employee will advise the customer on who to call at the police department’s fraud division. “This will give our citizens direct access to people who can look into the matter to determine any criminal or improper activity they may unknowingly be participating in,” Standridge said.

The police department also is being proactive by having an officer from its fraud division join a bank employee at informational sessions in the community. Abilene Detective Gabe Thompson can reassure seniors from an experience he already has had in successfully stopping fraud in its tracks. Thompson was involved in a case involving seven people who were identified and arrested for passing stolen checks and for using stolen debit and credit cards. He was more than impressed with how bank personnel jumped in to help.

“The amount of dedication to the customers of First Financial Bank and the diligence of bank employees was above and beyond anything I have experienced in dealing with financial institutions,” Thompson said. One of the bank employees he cited for exemplary work was Raquel Garza, Vice President, Retail Manager.

Thompson and Garza are frequent visitors to retirement centers, nursing homes, and civic clubs where they pass on valuable tips to help people prevent being a victim of financial exploitation. They explain how the case that resulted in seven arrests unfolded at a large assisted living facility in Abilene. The suspects gained entrance to the facility late at night and went into residents’ rooms, stealing their wallets and other personal items. The youngest of the victims was 87 years old.

“If it were not for the assistance of First Financial Bank employees, this case may have gone unsolved,” Thompson says. “These fine people have been shown to be true Fraud Busters.” In fact, all frontline employees of First Financial Bank are involved in the bank’s Fraud Busters program.

We are here to protect you. We are going to fight fraud all the way."
- RAQUEL GARZA, Vice President FFB - Retail Manager

The program is so innovative and effective that it was featured in the April issue of American Banking Association’s publication, ABA Banking Journal. In the article, FFIN Chairman, President, and CEO Scott Dueser told of a situation in which an elderly customer came into the bank to see if the funds she had deposited the day before had cleared. She had deposited a check for $1,500 that she received in the mail. She intended to mail the sender a check for $1,400.

Bank staff immediately recognized the transactions as the work of a scam artist. The bank placed a hold on the funds and alerted the customer not to mail the check. They also called the person whose account the check was drawn on and discovered that she, too, was elderly. The paying bank was notified and placed a “stop payment” notice to protect their customer’s account.

We wanted to design a program that detects fraud before the money goes into the wrong hands."
- SCOTT DUESER, President and CEO First Financial Bankshares

“The situation in Abilene is no different than what the industry is seeing nationwide,” Dueser explained, “We wanted to design a program that detects fraud before the money goes into the wrong hands.”

Many scam attempts come from anonymous, online sources, but all too often, an elderly person’s own family member or caregiver may be the perpetrator. That is why First Financial Bank formed an alliance with Adult Protective Services, which can step in to ensure that the elderly are properly taken care of.

First Financial Bank locations across Texas are employing the Fraud Busters program and their customers are benefitting. “Our program is just getting better and better,” Dueser said. A number of banks ask for our toolbox to start their own program.”

And, it’s no wonder. The proactive approach is working, thanks to the many dedicated employees who have jumped on board to help protect customers’ assets. No one is more dedicated than Garza, a familiar face at presentations about financial exploitation and how to prevent it. She leaves no doubt that First Financial Bank employees are “all in” when it comes to protecting their customers.

“We are here to protect you,” she says. “We are going to fight fraud all the way.”

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Loretta Fulton is a freelance writer in Abilene, Texas. She is retired from the Abilene Reporter-News. A 1969 journalism graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Fulton won numerous state and national awards for her work at the newspaper. She has been a freelance writer since 2007.

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Why I Care

My Personal Experience with Financial Exploitation

 

By Travis Parker June 18, 2015

At First Financial Bank, we have all kinds of statistics that show that financial exploitation of Seniors is a growing problem across the nation. As of 2013, it amounted to losses of $3 Billion Dollars in the United States and that number is almost certainly underreported. It affects 1 in 5 seniors over 65, or about 7.3 million people, and it is growing. This is a problem that affects families and communities, so it is a worthy cause in itself, but the reason I chose to be an advocate of this topic is because it happened to my Grandmother.

 
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The best way I can convey the impact exploitation has on individuals and families, is to tell the story of my Grandmother – Jean Parker. To tell it properly, I need to start from the beginning. My Grandmother was born in 1924, just old enough to be about 5 or 6 before the Great Depression hit. She was the youngest of 13 siblings. They grew up right outside of Rising Star, TX, and learned the value of hard work on a farm right from the start. During the Great Depression, they had to be resourceful and be vigilant against wastefulness. Through those lean years, those lessons were etched into her character, and all through her life she was watching where her money went. As a child, I remember afternoons working over a big basin snapping green beans for canning, and helping her make preserves as she prepared for the future. Goodwill was her preferred store. I tell you all this to make it clear – she was not one to waste her money.


Later in her life, after my Grandfather passed, my Grandmother lived alone and got to a point where she needed a caretaker – mostly due to the onset of dementia. In 2011 we found a highly-recommended, part-time caretaker who worked in Cleburne. My Dad engaged this caretaker’s services, and worked with my Grandmother to help maintain her independence. He was added as a co-signer on the checking account to help out as needed. After a time, he began to notice charges on her account that seemed out of place – tires for a car (when she didn’t even drive anymore), personal items an older lady wouldn’t purchase, and more and more checks made out to “cash”. With some detective work on my Dad’s part, and some help from Hilda Hood at First Financial Bank in Cleburne, we were able to determine these charges were made by the caregiver and fraudulent. We worked with the Department of Family and Protective Service to get that caregiver listed on the Employee Misconduct Registry of Texas, so she can never again work with elderly or disabled people.

In the end, we caught it quickly, before it devastated my Grandmother’s savings, but the damage was done. There were thousands of dollars in losses, and it was eye-opening what can happen to seniors. Back in 2011, I thought it was a one-off case of a bad caregiver, but the problem is growing in America, and in the markets we serve. That is why I am a volunteer speaker. I want to help combat the problem by educating our customers and the communities we serve. First Financial is enabling me and other speakers like me by providing the resources to help us partner with local law enforcement, the US Secret Service, and community leaders throughout Texas to help spread the message.



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Travis Parker is a commercial banker in Grapevine, Texas. A 2005 graduate, he studied Finance at Texas Tech University. He serves on the HEB Chamber of Commerce executive board, and is actively involved in promoting youth entrepreneurship programs.
Phone: 817-722-8983

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