Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Fraud Busters Protecting the Elderly: First Financial Bank Earns Trust from Customers and Law Enforcement in Preventing Financial Abuse and Exploitation of Older Americans

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Fraud Busters Protecting the Elderly: First Financial Bank Earns Trust from Customers and Law Enforcement in Preventing Financial Abuse and Exploitation of Older Americans

Article excerpt

WITH MORE THAN two-thirds of all bank deposits held by older Americans and trillions of dollars to be inherited or transferred by aging adults from their grandparents, parents and others, financial abuse of the elderly is on the rise. In response, First Financial Bankshares in Abilene, Tex., launched a Financial Exploitation Program called "Fraud Busters," a unique partnership between themselves, the Abilene Police Department and Adult Protective Services (APS).

First Financial chairman Scott Dueser says he would describe the problem as "an epidemic that every bank should be paying attention to and taking action to protect their customers." According to a MetLife study, financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly results in losses of around $2.9 billion annually. Almost everyone agrees that number is likely much higher as victims are often unlikely to report these crimes because they are frequently perpetrated by someone they know and trust.

Damages are only likely to increase, as the aging demographic of the United States is increasing rapidly. Baby boomers--those born between 1946 and 1964--are creating a dramatic shift in the age composition of the U.S. population. Projections suggest that 71.4 million people will be age 65 or older in 2029. This figure is close to 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2029, up from 14 percent in 2012.

Fraud is often perpetrated on the elderly through a middle-man who develops an online relationship with someone (via a dating or gaming website), that will, over time, lead to an "ask" for a financial favor. Dueser described one situation where an elderly customer came into his bank to see if the funds she had deposited the day before had cleared. She deposited a check for $1,500 that she received in the mail. She intended to mail the sender a check for $1,400.

Upon hearing the story, bank staff advised the customer she was a victim of a scam. …

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