Communities across the nation are working to prevent and respond to elder financial exploitation, which threatens the financial security of millions of older adults each year.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) helps state and local organizations create and develop Elder Fraud Prevention and Response Networks, often working with partners to host in-person convenings of local or regional stakeholders.
But what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were no longer able to convene in person? When reported fraud and scams hit an all-time high? And what happens when scammers target traditionally underserved populations? Here is how the CFPB and elder justice advocates adapted to meet the moment.
Convenings can happen virtually
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, convenings were adapted for a virtual environment.
The virtual events used varied session formats and technologies to maintain engagement and promote dialogue among participants. Virtual facilitation strategies included:
- Polling to generate real-time input from participants, including creating word clouds to illustrate and highlight the most popular responses to open-ended questions.
- Video feeds to enable dignitaries, presenters and panelists to participate at various points in the events.
- Virtual breakout rooms for small-group discussion and planning.
The virtual model also facilitated cross-jurisdictional collaboration, especially in Hawaii, allowing several hundred elder justice professionals from all five islands to attend and work together from their respective locations.
Even today these lessons from the virtual convenings continue to be helpful. In , approximately 80% of network representatives from across the nation indicated that they’d prefer to continue meeting virtually.
Convenings can be targeted to specific populations
Formerly, networks and convenings were based on location. But in May 2022, we facilitated the first national, population-specific convening focused on LGBTQ+ older adults and financial exploitation. A listening session revealed that LGBTQ+ older adults are often at higher risk of financial exploitation and may be more susceptible to isolation.
In partnership with SAGE: Advocacy & Services for LGBTQ+ Elders, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ older people; the National Center on Elder Abuse/Keck School of Medicine; and the Federal Trade Commission, we hosted a two-day virtual event focused on preventing and addressing financial exploitation and fraud against LGBTQ+ older adults. The goal of the summit was to start a conversation about those barriers and how to overcome them in support of LGBTQ+ older adults.
Convening participants discussed potential solutions, such as:
- Targeted outreach to segments of the community of LGBTQ+ older Americans to heighten awareness of and resistance to fraud and scams.
- More information about and training on elder fraud against LGBTQ+ older Americans for agencies and organizations that can prevent and respond to it.
- Enhanced tracking of scams targeting LGBTQ+ older Americans.
- Ways to build and sustain collaboration among various partners.
Additional learnings from a challenging time
Our recent convenings offered a variety of additional successful practices that may help other networks:
- We learned about networks’ challenges with financial institutions. The most common challenge was obtaining documents from financial institutions for law enforcement investigations. Another challenge was the lack of investigative collaboration among financial institutions, law enforcement, and adult protective services. These challenges are ones that the CFPB’s network program is designed to address.
- Several networks identified recognizing and addressing racial, cultural, economic, and geographic differences as a priority. These networks are working to address this priority through building relationships with diverse affinity organizations as well as training.
- The majority of convenings prioritize public education and outreach. Several networks proposed development of a speaker’s bureau that is available to the community for presentations.
- Convenings served as an opportunity to revitalize dormant networks. Breakout group discussions helped partners recommit themselves to collaboration and to identify concrete next steps for restarting their networks.
- As a result of convenings, Elder Fraud Prevention and Response Networks set goals and took steps to sustain their networks over time. Some of those goals include:
- setting up recurring meetings,
- identifying and engaging new partners and stakeholders,
- creating an information sharing platform, and
- regularly evaluating the network’s impact and goals.
Opportunities for network engagements1
The lessons learned from these convenings can help other communities develop or build capacity in existing networks, as well as improve coordination and collaboration between law enforcement, adult protective services, financial institutions, and aging service providers. Here are some ways to engage:
- Join an existing network. Contact your local Aging Network to find Elder Abuse Reporting and Resources through the Area Agency on Aging or Adult Protective Services through .
- Support the replication of an existing network or form a new network. Our Network Development Guide can help you get started.
- Participate in the development of a statewide elder justice network. Contact National Center for State and Tribal Elder Justice Coalitions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Start a speakers’ bureau for community outreach and professional training. CFPB and FDIC’s Money Smart for Older Adults fraud prevention program is a good place to start.
- For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov/eldernetworks and that take elder justice professionals step-by-step through the process of creating and building a network.
1. This content on this page may include links or references to third-party resources or content. The CFPB does not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs.