Preventing financial exploitation on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Contests, mailings and phone calls from unknown sources

June 15, 2017, marks the twelfth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day , or WEAAD. This day isn’t likely to show up on your calendar, though it is recognized globally. Elder financial exploitation is one of the most common and devastating forms of elder abuse. It can destroy the financial security of an older adult at a vulnerable stage of life. Financial exploitation can negatively impact physical and emotional health, or shorten an older person’s lifespan.

Few cases of financial exploitation, relative to the number of victims, are ever raised to the attention of law enforcement or protective services. Estimates of annual losses to older Americans range widely, but are in the billions.

Though much progress has been made in the past twelve years, this day also serves as a reminder that we have a long way to go in the fight against elder financial exploitation.  

The CFPB is committed to this fight. Here’s what we’re doing:

Reporting on the problem

In 2016, we released an advisory and report with recommendations for banks and credit unions on how to prevent, recognize, report, and respond to financial exploitation of older Americans.  

We also released a report last year that found that hundreds of counties around the country have developed coordinated community-based networks to tackle the rapidly growing problem of elder financial exploitation. Our recommendations help to develop and enhance collaborative efforts within a community. 

In February 2017, we released the second edition of Money Smart for Older Adults (MSOA), in collaboration with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). MSOA is an instructor-led curriculum that is used by professional and trained volunteers to raise awareness of elder financial exploitation and provide resources for reporting the abuse. The instructor guide, accompanying slides, and resource guide were updated with new information to broaden awareness of scams targeting older Americans. The resource guide can be downloaded and ordered in bulk, free of charge, and the instructor materials can be downloaded from the FDIC. 

Assembling networks of support

In the last few months, we’ve assembled community-based stakeholder agencies and organizations in communities in two states to help them start elder protection networks. In the coming months and beyond, we will initiate networks in many more communities to enhance coordination and improve response to cases that are reported to responders. While there are about 900 networks scattered nationwide, our research has found that many counties with large older adult populations do not have networks in place. Do you know of a community that could benefit from an elder protection network? Let us know

Providing resources

We also created a series of placemats with tips to help avoid fraud. While the placemats are most often used at group meal sites or by meal delivery providers like Meals on Wheels, other groups, like financial institutions and senior service providers, are using them as handouts. 

Get involved!

Going toe-to-toe with exploiters is an ambitious undertaking. We’re a big country, and elder financial abuse is a huge, complicated problem. Consider sharing our resources, tips, and other information that will help prevent elder financial exploitation in your own community. Most importantly, if you know of an instance of elder abuse, report it to local law enforcement or Adult Protective Services

Join the conversation. Follow CFPB on Twitter and Facebook .