The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is issuing an advisory to alert financial institutions to the rising trend of elder financial exploitation (EFE). EFE involves the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets, and is often perpetrated either through theft or scams. The advisory highlights new EFE typologies and red flags since FinCEN issued its first advisory on the issue in 2011.
“FinCEN is proud to support World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and call attention to a concerning and tragic rise in elder financial exploitation. Older adults should not have to endure abuse by criminals who seek to defraud them of their lifelong savings, or who wish to lure them into scams or schemes under false pretenses,” said FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das. “Financial institutions serve on the frontlines in protecting their older customers’ finances, and can play a critical role in helping to identify, prevent, and report suspected elder financial exploitation. Financial institutions’ vigilance matters. Their reporting matters.”
In 2021, financial institutions filed 72,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) related to EFE. As referenced in the advisory, this represents an increase of 10,000 SARs over the previous year’s filings. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s estimate of the dollar value of suspicious transactions linked to EFE has similarly increased—from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $3.4 billion in 2020. This is the largest year-to-year increase since 2013.
FinCEN’s EFE advisory highlights behavioral and financial red flags to aid financial institutions with identifying, preventing, and reporting suspected EFE. In line with the risk-based approach to compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act, financial institutions should perform additional due diligence where appropriate and remain alert to any suspicious activity that could indicate that their customers are perpetrators, facilitators, or victims of EFE.
In addition to filing a SAR, FinCEN recommends that financial institutions refer their older customers who may be victims of EFE to the Department of Justice’s National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 or 833-372-8311 for assistance with reporting suspected fraud to the appropriate government agencies. For educational resources on EFE and scams targeting older adults, please see the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans.