Credit Union Group Works to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

With the number of seniors who have been targeted by a financial scam increasing, the Cooperative Credit Union Association launched a new education initiative to combat elder financial abuse.

The Cooperative Credit Union Association is hoping to keep seniors safe from financial fraud with its new Credit Union Senior Safeguard education initiative. Through the program, CCUA hopes to train both the frontline staffs at credit unions, as well as educate consumers about elder financial abuse.

A September 2017 CCUA survey illustrated the need for the initiative: Results showed that 67 percent of caretakers reported a senior being targeted with fraud, and more than a quarter of respondents had actually fallen prey to a financial scam.

“The numbers are alarming and speak loudly,” said CCUA President and CEO Paul Gentile in a press release. “We have to take action to educate ourselves and the staff who work in the branches of our member credit unions to recognize the signs of elder financial abuse and know what to do in response to it. We also recognized the need to educate consumers as well. Education leads to better prevention, and our Credit Union Senior Safeguard program is being designed to facilitate that effort.”

The Credit Union Senior Safeguard, a part of CCUA’s larger Better Values. Better Banking initiative, will roll out in two phases. The first phase is to educate the frontline staff at credit unions on how to spot potential elder fraud.

“For example, somebody may try to get on the elder’s account as a joint account holder, and that doesn’t sound like a big deal but actually once they’re on as an account holder, if there’s rights to survivorship, everything can become the scammers,” Gentile said. “If the elder dies, they’ll have full access to the account and there’s really nothing you can do about it.”

CCUA will also train these staffers on what they can do once they’ve spotted elder financial abuse. Gentile hopes that CCUA will be able to educate 100 percent of the frontline staff at credit unions by the first quarter of 2019.

The next phase, which will launch in June, will be to educate consumers about senior financial abuse through radio ads, TV ads, and a social media campaign. These will push people to the Better Values. Better Banking website, which will have the consumer-education component for preventing elder financial abuse.

“I’d like to see more awareness of elder financial abuse,” Gentile said. “Maybe there are family members out there who aren’t thinking about this for their elderly parents or siblings—and maybe they’ll be a little more proactive, saying, ‘Boy, well, these things could happen’ to somebody they love.”

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Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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