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Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019: ACFCS highlights tips, tactics to counter scammers targeting elders

Saturday, June 15, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brian Monroe
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By Brian Monroe
June 15, 2018

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a designation meant to highlight the ongoing criminal tactics targeting one of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and better sensitize financial crime compliance professionals, law enforcement and caregivers about an issue growing in scope.

The issue of how to protect the elderly and spot fraudsters attempting to take advantage of the elderly is also very important to the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS).

We have extensively covered the dynamics at play in detailed stories, webinars and during live events, a challenge as standard anti-money laundering (AML) compliance risk assessments may miss the more nuanced red flags at play in this crime.

For instance, in most cases, direct relatives and caregivers are low-risk entities tied to certain accounts, where compliance analysts typically look for risky entities outside the bank trying to break in – but that changes when the elderly are involved.

Ironically, for many cases of elder abuse, it is a close family member or stated caregiver attempting to take advantage of an elder parent or relative that is incapable of saying no to certain transactions when individuals attempt to drain their savings, investments or run up credit card debt in their name.

That was the alleged case in a recent high-profile incident of elder abuse, proving that anyone can become a victim of elder abuse – even a famous celebrity known for creating the world’s most popular superheroes.

Earlier this month, a former manager for Stan Lee pleaded not guilty to charges of elder abuse against the architect of many of the Marvel Superheroes smashing box office records in the waning months of his life.

Keya Morgan, 43, a New York-based memorabilia collector, entered the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court. He is facing five counts of elder abuse, including false imprisonment, fraud and forgery.

In court documents, prosecutors say he pilfered more than $100,000 in goods, items and property from Lee, whose estate was worth an estimated $50 million. Authorities arrested Morgan was in Arizona last month.

Lee, a comic book legend with a larger than life personality, aw-shucks humbleness and big smile always ready to say a rousing, “excelsior!” is the incredible mind behind many of the comic book heroes who have leapt to the silver screen, ushering in a golden age of comic book movies.

He is also the co-creator of “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man,” “The Hulk,” “X-men,” and dozens of other Marvel superheroes. Lee died in November 2018 at age 95.

Making the case all the more heartbreaking is Morgan was supposed to be taking care of Lee.

He began working for Lee in early 2018 following the death a few months earlier of his wife of 70 years, Joan, according to published reports.

In one instance, according to investigators, Morgan attempted to take full control of Lee, under the guise of a faux emergency.

In June 2018, Morgan removed Lee from his Hollywood Hills home late at night and took him to an apartment in Beverly Hills in a bid to convince the comic book creator that he was in danger, say authorities.

Lee’s family feared for what could have happened and obtained a restraining order against Morgan after the incident as, at the time, the typically spry and witty Lee’s sight and hearing was failing, his judgment was impaired and he was not able to put up any fight against anyone or resist “undue influence” from someone attempting to take advantage of him, physically or financially.

The problem, according to government estimates, as well is only going to get worse.

According to the Census Bureau's “middle series” projections, the elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. By that year, as many as 1 in 5 Americans could be elderly.

This puts more pressure on bank compliance teams to look for the signs of elder abuse, including: 

  • Has an elder customer with a stable account balance suddenly started incurring non-sufficient funds (NSF) charges or low account balance?
  • Has an elder customer account shown a large increase in withdrawals or checks to unfamiliar recipients?
  • Do accounts of an elder customer show large transfers into the account from investment accounts, only to be quickly withdrawn?
  • Is an elder customer with no or infrequent ATM withdrawals now showing an increased pattern of ATM withdrawals?
  • Is an elder customer with consistent spending patterns now showing a sharp increase in spending?

To help compliance teams and investigators better spot transactions tied to crimes against the elderly, ACFCS has culled some guidance and tips from our archives.

While usually available only to members, we've unlocked this content for public access to help spread awareness of this critical topic, and the role all financial crime professionals can play in combating elder financial exploitation, (via ACFCS).

United Nations

As elders grow older, abuse against global aged population set to soar: UN

Virtually all countries are expected to see substantial growth in the number of older persons between 2015 and 2030, and that growth will be faster in developing regions – a rise that will correspondent with more cases of criminals targeting this population.

Because the numbers of older persons are growing, the amount of elder abuse can be expected to grow with it.

While the taboo topic of elder abuse has started to gain visibility across the world, it remains one of the least investigated types of violence in national surveys, and one of the least addressed in national action plans.

Key facts about elder abuse:

  • Around 1 in 6 older people experience some form of abuse, a figure higher than previously estimated and predicted to rise as populations age worldwide.
  • Rates of abuse may be higher for older people living in institutions than in the community.
  • Elder abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences.
  • Elder abuse is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.
  • The global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050.

Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations, (via the UN).


DOJ forms new Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force to better identify, investigate, counter foreign fraud schemes targeting U.S. seniors

The Strike Force will focus on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include telemarketing, mass-mailing, and tech-support fraud schemes.

The fraud schemes include classic romance scams, Nigerian Prince schemes and foreign lottery and inheritance tales that fleece desperate seniors for, in some cases, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will be comprised of prosecutors and data analysts from the Consumer Protection Branch, prosecutors with six U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (Central District of California, Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Eastern District of New York, Southern District of Texas), FBI special agents, Postal Inspectors, and numerous other law enforcement personnel.

The Strike Force will also collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission and industry partners, who have pledged to engage with the Department to help end the scourge of elder fraud. It will further benefit from the help of the Elder Justice Coordinators now assigned in every U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Fraud against the elderly is on the rise,” said Attorney General William Barr. “One of the most significant and pernicious causes for this increase is foreign-based fraud schemes. The Department of Justice is committed to ending the victimization of elders across the country,”(via DOJ).

Some examples of the elder financial exploitation prosecuted by the Department include:

·       “Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;

·       “Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;

·       “Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;

·       “IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes;

·       “Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians.

DOJ also offers an Elder Abuse Roadmap to better guide law enforcement investigators, support victims and arm compliance officers, (via DOJ).

Further resources

Here are some additional resources from the U.S. government and private sector groups to more efficiently and effectively spot elder financial abuse:

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