According to AARP, one in five older Americans are victims of financial exploitation each year, losing up to US $120,000 per episode, which is the amount a typical 50-plus household has in retirement savings. To make matters worse, many don’t believe they will become vulnerable, and perpetrators could be strangers, family members, or close friends. The age and the amount of assets held by older adults make them prime targets for financial exploitation: the 50-plus account for thirty percent of the U.S. population, holding over seventy percent of deposit balances. In addition, 10,000 people turn 65 on a daily basis – so much as that by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.
As reported by Wall Street Journal, U.S. banks reported a record 24,454 suspected cases of elder financial abuse to the Treasury Department last year, more than double the amount five years earlier. The real number is likely higher since many cases go unreported. Financial exploitation comes in different forms, from phishing to identity theft and romance scam by strangers and professional scammers, to close family members stealing money from joint accounts or threatening abandonment, and many others.
In addition to training bank staff to identify and report suspicious behaviors, there is much technology can do. For starters, financial institutions can leverage data analytics to spot patterns that are out of the norm, such as changes in spending patterns and unusual withdrawals and wire transfers. One such startup is EverSafe, which leverages historical financial behavior across different bank accounts to build personal profiles, and analyzes daily transactions to identify anomalies including missing deposits and late bill payments, which can be indicative of potential cognitive decline, and likelihood of falling victim to financial exploitations. Suspicious activity alerts are then sent out to both the older adult and his/her designated “trusted advocates”.
According to Liz Loewy, former chief of the elder abuse unit in New York County District Attorney’s Office and current co-founder and COO of EverSafe, elder financial abuse is tied with caregiving neglect as having the highest mortality rate amongst all senior abuse.
Fraud detection is complex and the amount of data that needs to be mined and analyzed is massive. AI shows great promise in being able to move from detecting fraud after the fact, to predicting and preventing it before it happens. This will serve to minimize the financial exposure of the older adults, and preserve their dignity. With more and more transactions being performed digitally, this is needed even more now than ever, and technology can help banks stay one step ahead of the scammers.