May is Older Americans Month (opens new window), a national initiative that acknowledges the contributions of past and current older persons to our country. It is also an excellent opportunity for you to reach out to your older members to make sure they know how to defend themselves against financial exploitation.
Each year, millions of older Americans are targets of scam artists or fall victim to other forms of financial abuse. Research indicates (opens new window) older adult victims lose $2.9 billion to financial exploitation annually. Financial exploitation can have devastating effects on older adults. For example, it can:
- Leave an older adult in poverty and homeless;
- Tarnish the credit scores of older adults or make it difficult for them to get credit;
- Result in lost independence and forced reliance on family members;
- Lead to hospitalization, and victims may be unable to afford medications and basic necessities; and
- Produce stress associated with decreased mental and physical health.
To help educate older adults, caregivers and credit union officials, NCUA has developed two videos available on YouTube. The first, Scams Targeting Seniors (opens new window), illustrates how an older consumer could become the victim of a scam. We encourage credit unions to share the video on their websites, through social media or during financial literacy events. The second video, Reporting Elder Financial Abuse or Exploitation (opens new window), explains to credit union managers and staff how to spot, prevent and report cases of financial abuse. This helpful video can be shared with credit union staff during a training program.
In addition, a September 2013 NCUA Letter to Credit Unions and accompanying interagency guidance (opens new window) urges credit unions to review their policies and procedures and ensure staff is trained to recognize signs of financial abuse or exploitation. Also, in March of this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued an advisory (opens new window) on preventing and responding to elder financial exploitation. Credit unions are encouraged to review the Letter to Credit Unions and CFPB Advisory to ensure their staff is aware of the techniques to spot the potential financial abuse or exploitation of older members.
Finally, NCUA's consumer website MyCreditUnion.gov (opens new window) offers free educational information and resources for credit unions and their members, including the NCUA Fraud Prevention Center (opens new window). The NCUA Fraud Prevention Center helps consumers learn how to recognize common scams and take action if they think they are victims of fraud. It also provides useful tips for protecting their finances.
On MyCreditUnion.gov (opens new window) credit unions can also access resources from AARP's Fraud Watch Network (opens new window). NCUA is collaborating with AARP on a series of initiatives aimed at promoting financial education and outreach, helping consumers achieve financial security and increasing access to responsible and affordable financial services.
For more information, visit MyCreditUnion.gov (opens new window).