VIENNA, Va. (2/23/11)--Credit unions and other financial institutions often can play a key role in uncovering instances of financial exploitation of the elderly, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Tuesday released an advisory on filing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on this type of elder abuse. FinCEN noted an “upward trend” of federal financial institutions filing SARs to report suspected financial exploitation of elderly members or customers, and the agency said that trend is consistent with increased attention the problem is receiving on the state level as well. The new FinCEN advisory contains examples of behavior that should send up "red flags" of concern. The “red flags” are based on activity identified by various state and federal agencies and, FinCEN said, provide a “common narrative” that will assist law enforcement in “better identifying suspected cases of financial exploitation of the elderly reported in SARs.” The warning sign can include erratic or unusual banking transactions, or changes in banking patterns, such as:
* Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM; * Sudden Non-Sufficient Fund activity; * Uncharacteristic nonpayment for services, which may indicate a loss of funds or access to funds; * Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the elder; * Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money; or, * Closing of certificate or other accounts without regard to penalties.
Certain interactions with members or customers, or their caregivers, can also set off alarms. These suspicious behaviors can include:
* A caregiver or other individual shows excessive interest in the elder's finances or assets, does not allow the elder to speak for himself, or is reluctant to leave the elder's side during conversations; *The elder shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker; * The financial institution is unable to speak directly with the elder, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her; *A new caretaker, relative, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the elder without proper documentation; * The customer moves away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other "friends" or strangers; * The elderly individual's financial management changes suddenly, such as through a change of power of attorney to a different family member or a new individual; or, * The elderly customer lacks knowledge about his or her financial status, or shows a sudden reluctance to discuss financial matters.
The FinCEN advisory noted that elder abuse, including financial exploitation, is generally reported and investigated at a local level, with Adult Protective Services, District Attorney's offices, sheriff's offices, and police departments taking key roles. “We emphasize that filers should continue to report all forms of elder abuse according to institutional policies and the requirements of state and local laws and regulations, where applicable,” FinCEN said. The advisory adds that financial institutions may wish to consider how their anti-money laundering programs can complement their policies on reporting elder financial exploitation at the local and state level. Financial institutions with questions or comments regarding the FinCEN elder-abuse advisory may contact FinCEN's regulatory Helpline at 800-949-2732. Use resource link for FinCEN advisory.