MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — About two-thirds of elderly Americans have been targeted by a fraud campaign, and more than a quarter have actually fallen victim to such efforts, a new survey finds.
Researchers at the Cooperative Credit Union Association (CCUA), a trade group that represents credit unions, polled nearly 1,200 Americans, all of whom were caretakers of senior citizens, hoping to learn more about the scams that prey on unsuspecting baby boomers.
Sixty-seven percent of caretakers indicated that the elder under their watch had been exposed to a scam in some form. Correspondence via email was found to be the most common (53 percent) attempt at fraud, followed by telephone (49 percent), text message (16 percent), and postal mail (also 16 percent).
Meanwhile, a full 28 percent of caretakers said their senior had actually been victimized by a financial scam, highlighting how frequently shady communications can motivate actual behavior.
“These findings starkly illustrate the need to get tough on criminals who target seniors in the belief that they are easy victims,” says Paul Gentile, CCUA’s CEO, in a press release. “Protecting the elderly is a top priority of credit unions, and we’re proud to work with state regulators on new initiatives, such as training manuals and measures to combat underreporting.”
Although legislators have attempted to dissuade fraud, massive breaches of information, such as last month’s Equifax hack, are happening with alarming regularity, the researchers note.
Forty-four percent of caretakers polled said that their elder had no plan in place to address a fraud or identity theft incident, while 39 percent indicated that their elder was “somewhat” or “not at all” financially literate.
Gentile suggests that all Americans, including senior citizens, would benefit from learning about and taking action to prevent financial fraud.
“All financial consumers need to take steps to protect themselves financially and digitally, including by being aware of the latest trends in frauds and scams,” he says.
The survey was conducted in mid-September, mere days after the Equifax hack.
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