SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In an effort to raise awareness and prevent the financial exploitation of elders, local, state and federal law enforcement are partnering with social service organizations and financial institutions to train local bank tellers and loan officers to be aware of behaviors that may indicate that an older person could be a victim of financial exploitation. Last week, these organizations conducted a virtual training with banking institutions in Springfield to emphasize the importance of fraud prevention and reporting attempted scams and abuse.
“Increased isolation related to Covid-19 has been identified as a primary cause of a significant increase in the number of older Americans targeted for scams and fraud and of those who fall victim to these crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Doug Quivey. “Fraudsters use the internet and phone to reach vulnerable elder citizens and persuade them to give money to a charitable cause, to someone with whom they’ve developed a romantic connection, to access large winnings through a sweepstakes or lottery, and to pose as government employees who claim the victim owes taxes or social security.”
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright stated, “ For a variety of reasons, older citizens may not always be able to protect themselves from the increasing prevalence of financial scams or other exploitation, particularly those who suffer from memory impairment. Older individuals too often become targets for creative fraudsters out to take advantage of the vulnerable. Financial institutions are critical partners in the identification and reporting of crimes against the elderly.”
Signs of financial exploitation include an elder customer’s sudden change in banking activity to include frequent ATM withdrawals, wire transactions, gift cards purchases, or cryptocurrency purchases; a nervous or confused senior on the phone or in the bank; an elder customer who exits and immediately returns to the lobby; and elders who are elusive with details about why and to whom they are sending money or are confused about “missing funds.”
Timely reporting to law enforcement is critical; if a banking transaction related to a fraud is reported within the first 72 hours, law enforcement may be able to stop the transaction and retrieve the money. As time passes, the likelihood of recovering the money decreases.
In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Sangamon County States Attorney’s Office, those who presented training to local banks and credit unions included the Illinois Attorney General’s Office; Senior Services of Central Illinois; and, agents and officers with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, and the Springfield Police Department.
If a senior or friend or relative of a senior believes a senior is at risk for imminent danger or financial exploitation, they should call 9-1-1. Reports of financial exploitation and abuse should be reported to the non-emergency number at the Springfield Police Department (217-788-8311.) The Adult Protective Services Hotline number to report elder fraud is 866 800-1409. Elder fraud may also be reported to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at 800-243-5377. Internet-based fraud should be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3, https://www.ic3.gov/Home/FileComplaint Useful information about elder frauds and scams is available at www.uspis.gov and www.ftc.gov.