What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?Elder financial exploitation (EFE) is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets. It is the fastest-growing form of elder abuse, as perpetrators may be family members, friends, neighbors, caregivers, health care providers, business associates, or strangers. Elder financial exploitation crimes usually fall into two categories:
Trusted individuals steal money or belongings from seniors. Elder theft comprises two-thirds of EFE cases. Some examples include:
- Forging checks
- Stealing retirement or Social Security benefits
- Using credit cards or bank accounts without permission
- Changing names on wills, bank accounts, life insurance policies, or real estate titles without permission
Strangers deceive older adults into transferring money to them for promised goods, services, or financial benefits which do no exist or were misrepresented. Some examples include:
- Tech Support Scams: Scammers pose as tech repair agents to access victims’ computers and finances.
- Investment Scams: Perpetrators induce investors to make purchases based on false information and promises of large returns with minimal risk.
- Romance Scams: Criminals seek money from victims on dating apps and social media.
- Government or Family Imposter Scams: Fraudsters impersonate government officials or family members to demand money.
- Lottery Scams: Criminals claim victims must pay taxes or fees to access winnings from a lottery or raffle.
Why Are Older Adults Targeted?Seniors generally have more accumulated wealth, thanks to a lifetime of working, investing, and saving. Older adults who are most vulnerable to exploitation may:
- Have previously been a victim of fraud or scams
- Suffer from mild cognitive impairment or dementia
- Be dependent on others to meet daily needs
- Experience social isolation
- Lack information about scams and fraud
- Be unfamiliar with technology, online services, and safe online behavior
Recognize the signs of elder financial exploitation, such as changes in behavior or unusual account activity. Watch out for elders who:
Spot the Red Flags of Elder Financial Exploitation
- Make sudden and unusual changes to accounts, such as altering contact information or adding new contacts who are located overseas.
- Cannot explain unusual account activity or appear confused about financial transactions.
- Appear distressed, fearful, and anxious to follow directions provided by others (e.g., they’ve received instructions from an unknown third party).
- Seem fearful of, or submissive to, a caregiver.
- Indicate a transaction is for, or on behalf of, an online friend or romantic partner.
- Urgently want to send money to a loved one because of an emergency, but the recipient is an unconnected individual or third-party business.
- Indicate an interest in purchasing large numbers of gift cards or prepaid access cards.
- Send multiple checks or wire transfers with memos such as “tech support services,” “winnings,” “taxes,” “home improvement,” “investment,” or “crypto investment.”
- Close CDs or accounts without regard for penalties.
- Suddenly discuss buying cryptocurrency.
Help protect older adults by recognizing, responding, and reporting elder financial exploitation. For more information on elder financial exploitation, you can access the following resources:
Recognize, Respond, and Report
Scams and Alerts You Should Be Aware Of
The FBI is warning financial institutions and investors about cyber criminals creating fraudulent cryptocurrency investment applications (apps) to defraud cryptocurrency investors.
The FBI Criminal Investigative Division and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) warn of fraudsters swindling investors while pretending to be registered brokers or investment advisers.
In today’s remote-working world, technology is at the forefront of almost everything we do. With millions of people online every day, it is important to be aware of your digital surroundings.
It’s no secret that scams and fraudulent activity are at an all-time high. Fraudsters will stop at nothing to gain access to valuable personal information, access account numbers, and/or find ways to illegally receive payment from you in any manner.
Phishing, vishing, and smishing all involve spoofed communication that appears to be from a legitimate business urging you to “act immediately” or your account might be closed. Phishing uses fraudulent email messages, smishing employs text messages, and vishing combines both spam phone calls and fraudulent emails. Hackers use this information to access your accounts to withdraw money or make purchases.
First Bank will never email you and ask you to provide personal information, such as your social security number, account number, or birthdate, via email. If you choose to open an account online, however, through our secure, online portal, you will be asked to provide personal information.
A First Bank representative may call you regarding activity on your account or to verify specific transaction activity on your account. We will always verify that you are the account holder before discussing specific account activity.
First Bank strives to keep our clients informed. We do send legitimate emails to our clients with news, alerts, product offers, secure, online account opening options, and branch-specific information. If you should have any questions regarding the email addresses we use for such client communications or questions regarding an email that you’ve received, please feel free to reach out to us by calling 800-760-2265.
Ways to Avoid Phishing, Vishing, and Smishing
- When purchasing a product or service, go directly to a company's website. Pay close attention to the URL in the browser window and watch for the padlock symbol that indicates you are visiting a secure site.
- Verify messages by contacting the company or financial institution that supposedly sent them.
- Look up email addresses, website URLs, and phone numbers of reputable companies. Do not automatically use those provided in the messages or over the phone before doing your research and homework.
- Whether it’s a phone call, suspicious email, or an usolicited text, always be cautious.
Ransomware is a type of malware that is unwittingly downloaded when you click on a tainted link, open an infected attachment, or even click on a phony advertisement. If your computer freezes, and a message on your screen tells you that your computer will remain frozen until you pay a ransom or a fee, you have become a victim of ransomware. The criminals often ask for a minimal amount of money to give you access to your computer again. They believe that you are comfortable paying them to avoid the frustration of the situation. Sometimes the denominations are very small and the accepted method of payment transmission might include wiring money through a common wire service. Thieves also may ask you to make a payment via a premium text message or send them money as a type of online cash.
Protect Your Devices Against Ransomware
- Install current firewall, anti-virus software, and anti-malware software on your computer, tablet, and other mobile devices.
- Back up everything on your devices to a cloud service or a USB drive.
- Never click on a link or download an attachment unless you have independently confirmed that the communication or advertisement is legitimate. Emails that contain links to businesses sent from friends may have been hacked by scammers. Go directly to a company’s website instead of clicking on a link in an email.
- Create different passwords for all of your accounts.
- Change your passwords regularly.
IRS, Summit Partners warn on tax deadline scams, ‘IRS Refunds’ email
WASHINGTON – When the tax deadline is approaching, the Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners urge taxpayers and tax professionals to be alert to identity theft scams, especially a new email version currently pretending to be from “IRS Refunds.”
As the filing season comes to a close, thieves step up their efforts, warned the Internal Revenue Service and the Security Summit partners. The Security Summit, a partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, continues to take steps to combat tax-related identity theft.
The “IRS Refunds” scam is a common tactic used by cybercriminals to trick people into opening a link or attachment associated with the email. This link takes people to a fake page where thieves try to steal personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers.
Often these links or attachments also secretly download malware that can perform many functions, such as giving the thief control of the computer or tracking keystrokes to determine other sensitive passwords or critical data.
The IRS does not randomly contact taxpayers or tax professionals via email, including asking people to confirm their tax refund information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.
Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail.
Note that the IRS does not:
- Demand that taxpayers use a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS will not ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone. Taxpayers should make check payments to the “United States Treasury” or review IRS.gov/payments for IRS online options.
- Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say is owed. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to those who owe any taxes. Taxpayers should also be advised of their rights as a taxpayer.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have taxpayers arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke a driver’s license, business license or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
With scams like these circulating, taxpayers and tax professionals should take ongoing security precautions to protect their identities and their computer networks from identity thieves. Here are a few basic security steps for taxpayers:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers. Use strong, unique passwords for each account.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect personal data. Don’t routinely carry Social Security cards, and make sure tax records are secure. Shop at reputable online retailers. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.
Here are few basic security steps for tax professionals:
- Learn to recognize phishing emails, especially those pretending to be from the IRS, e-Services, a tax software provider or cloud storage provider. Never open a link or any attachment from a suspicious email. Remember: the IRS never initiates initial contact with tax pros via email.
- Create a data security plan using IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Review internal controls:
- Install anti-malware/anti-virus security software on all devices (laptops, desktops, routers, tablets and phones) and keep software set to automatically update.
- Use strong and unique passwords of 10 or more mixed characters, password-protect all wireless devices, use a phrase or words that are easily remembered and change passwords periodically.
- Encrypt all sensitive files/emails and use strong password protections.
- Back-up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to a network.
- Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives that contain sensitive data.
- Limit access to taxpayer data to individuals who need to know.
- Check IRS e-Services account weekly for number of returns filed with EFIN.
- Report any data theft or data loss to the appropriate IRS Stakeholder Liaison.
- Stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals, Quick Alert and Social Media.