“Hi, Grandpa — I’m in jail,” the crying voice on the other end of the telephone begins. “Please don’t tell anyone. Can you please send money?”
This desperate plea is a common elder financial abuse scam. In commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, Plumas Bank is joining forces with the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) to spread the word about common ploys and tips to prevent elder financial abuse.
Older Americans lose roughly $3 billion to a growing number of scams each year, according to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, with the average victim of elder financial exploitation losing $120,000.
“We take our role as a trusted financial resource for our clients very seriously,” said Donna Hamilton, business advisor at the bank’s Fall River Mills branch. “We’re a community bank, meaning we work hard every day to empower all clients, who are also our neighbors. Elder financial abuse is so common, yet it’s also deceptively subtle and often plays upon the emotions of big-hearted people. So our job is to help everyone open their eyes to detect scams, encourage reporting and help protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
Plumas Bank and ICBA offer the following suggestions to help curb elder financial abuse:
- Secure private information (such as Social Security card, passport, bank account numbers, financial statements, medical records, and other legal documents), in a bank safety deposit box.
- Check your bank accounts and bill statements If you notice unauthorized charges or unusual activity, alert your bank immediately.
- Do not disclose personal information, such as bank account numbers or PINs, to anyone claiming to be from an established organization, especially if they ask you to wire funds.
- Ask your trusted bankers at Plumas Bank about available resources to help protect you or your loved ones from scams and exploitation.
- Plan ahead by giving a trusted person the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you are unable. Make sure your bank has a record of who can manage your money on your behalf.
- Contact your local adult protective services agency and law enforcement if you have information about a fraud or suspect you may have encountered financial abuse.
“Community bankers are often the first line of defense and can be a key resource in alerting others how to avoid becoming a victim,” ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said. “Call on these trusted financial stewards to help identify prevalent scams and halt criminal activity before they try to siphon away your hard-earned financial future for you and your future generations.”
Sadly, cases of financial elder abuse often go unreported. One recent study found that for every reported case, 44 go unreported. The solution: Identifying resources available to you if you have questions or want to report something suspicious.
Here are steps to take if you are suspicious of an elder abuse scam:
- Call 911 if you think you or a loved one is in immediate danger.
- Reach out to your bank.
- Contact Adult Protective Services for your area. Here are the two offices dedicated to the states served by Plumas Bank; if you live in another state, use this state-by-state directory:
- California Adult Protective Services
To report abuse, call this number 1-833-401-0832 and when prompted enter your 5-digit zip code to be connected to the appropriate office in your county.
- Nevada Adult Protective Services
To report abuse of seniors or adults with disabilities, call 888-729-0571.