Government, industry members highlight issues with elder financial abuse

Agencies, U.S. senators and others commemorated “Slam the Scam” day to bring awareness to scammers posing as officials, lenders

As seniors remain targets of bad actors aiming to commit elder financial abuse, government agencies, lawmakers and industry members united to highlight these issues on “Slam the Scam” day, held on March 9.

One of the most common ways that scammers attempt to exploit seniors is through the Social Security benefit program, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) participated in the event.

“Social Security scams — where fraudsters pressure victims into making cash or gift card payments to fix alleged Social Security number problems or to avoid arrest – are an ongoing government imposter fraud scheme,” the SSA said in a statement. “For several years, Social Security impersonation scams have been one of the most common government imposter scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission.”

The efforts to address these types of scams appear to be having an impact. The agency said that reports of money lost to Social Security scams fell by 30% between 2021 and 2022.

Federal lawmakers also commemorated the day. U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) led a resolution in the chamber declaring March 9 “National Slam the Scam Day,” with the senators working alongside the SSA and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to highlight the impacts of scams on Americans.

“Last year, Americans lost almost $509 million to government imposter scams,” Sen. Kelly said. “Our bipartisan resolution serves as an important reminder to keep an eye out for Social Security-related and other government imposter scams. Stay aware and stay safe.”

Last December, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) OIG released a bulletin highlighting the prevalence of scams related to the reverse mortgage product. In 2021, U.S. financial institutions filed 72,000 suspicious activity reports related to elder financial abuse — an increase of 10,000 filings year over year.

While Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) loans are legitimate products, the HECM demographic makes it easy for scammers to target older Americans and commit elder financial abuse by using reverse mortgage pretenses, HUD OIG said in December. The complexity of reverse mortgage loans can also work in scammers’ favor, according to the bulletin.

To bring further industry-specific attention to this issue, the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) highlighted a brochure it created in 2021 that outlines how reverse mortgage professionals can recognize and report instances of elder financial abuse.

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