CFPB Analysis of SARs Finds Elder Financial Abuse Widespread, Costly

The number of Suspicious Activity Reports filed on suspected elder financial abuse quadrupled from 2013 to 2017, rising to 63,500 that year, according to new figures published today by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In 2017, financial institutions reported $1.7 billion worth of actual elder fraud losses and attempts to steal seniors’ money.

Of SARs during the study period, nearly 80 percent involved a loss to a senior victim or to the institution filing the SAR. When a SAR involved a loss to a senior, the average amount was $34,200; when a filer lost money, the amount averaged $16,700. Losses were greater when victims knew the suspect; $50,000 on average versus $17,000 for stranger frauds. Losses involving a victim’s checking and savings accounts saw higher median losses than those involving money transfers or credit cards.

SARs filed by depository institutions rose by 80 percent during this period. While money services businesses tended to file SARs on scams involving money transfers, the frauds uncovered by banks were more diverse. They included scams, caregiver theft, account takeover attempts and identity theft.

The CFPB found that a little over half of depository institutions reported the suspicious activity to law enforcement or adult protective services separately from filing a SAR, whereas only one percent of the SARs filed by MSBs were also reported to law enforcement. Banks can participate in the ABA Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors program, which provides resources for banks on preventing elder fraud and partnering with law enforcement, as well as education materials for customers and community seniors.