Older generations who did not grow up using smartphones and the internet are often the targets for financial abuse by perpetrators who are far more comfortable navigating the digital landscape. Often, they use their knowledge to gain a person’s trust and access to their financial information.
Unfortunately, the isolation that many seniors have endured since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it easier for opportunistic parties to take advantage of someone.
Virtual financial abuse tactics
A fraudster never even needs to meet or see their victims to gain access to their bank accounts or personal information. They can utilize various tactics online to defraud someone, especially when the target does not have someone routinely checking in on them.
Some examples of these efforts include:
- Forming an intimate relationship online through dating websites or social media platforms
- Sending emails claiming to be a relative in need of financial assistance
- Sending emails claiming to be from a government or financial agency and requesting personal information
- Spoofing phone numbers to call or text a person and appear as a legitimate entity, like a credit bureau
- Installing spy or tracking software on a person’s computer without their knowledge
Efforts can become even more egregious and thorny when the abuser is known to the victim and uses their position to commit financial abuse.
The fallout of financial abuse
When someone you love loses money to scams and abuse, it’s not just an unfortunate situation. It can mean they can no longer pay their bills or receive the care they need. It can mean losing the money they planned to leave behind for loved ones. Financial abuse can have devastating economic, personal and legal consequences for victims.
Considering how severe the fallout can be, it is crucial for everyone in contact with a vulnerable person to watch for signs of abuse. This can include:
- Bankers who notice unusual transactions or account activity
- Health care workers who see a person’s health and personal care decline
- Family members who learn of issues like unpaid bills or the sale of a loved one’s property that he or she did not approve
Each of these parties can be in a position to report possible financial fraud. Doing so saves more than money; it can also save a victim from the personal and emotional toll of abuse.