‘Hundreds of thousands’ of suspicious activity reports involve older customers, quadrupling in four years, bureau finds

Older customers who are increasingly becoming victims of exploitation at banks and other such firms are the subjects of “hundreds of thousands” of suspicious activity reports (SARs) being filed by the financial institutions, the federal consumer financial protection bureau said in a report published Tuesday.

In what it called its first-ever report on Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wrote that it analyzed 180,000 elder financial exploitation SARs filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) from 2013 to 2017, involving more than $6 billion. The reports are filed by banks, credit unions, casinos, and others, the bureau said.

According to the bureau, the analysis showed:

  • SAR filings on elder financial exploitation grew four-fold from 2013 to 2017, with 63,500 SARs reporting elder financial abuse filed in 2017. “Yet these SARs likely represent only a tiny fraction of the actual 3.5 million incidents of elder financial exploitation estimated to have happened that year,” the bureau stated
  • Elder financial exploitation happens at other places than financial institutions (such as banks or credit unions): Money services businesses (MSBs) – used by some people to wire money – filed 58% of the SARs in 2017, the CFPB said.
  • Older adults ages 70 to 79 lost on average $43,300. And when the older adult knew the suspect, the average loss was even larger – about $50,000, the bureau said.
  • Fewer than one-third of elder financial exploitation SARs specify that the financial institution reported the activity to adult protective services, law enforcement, or other authorities. “If the financial institution is not reporting to these authorities, this is a missed opportunity to strengthen prevention and response,” CFPB said.

Financial institutions report widespread elder financial abuse