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Wyandotte, Mich. —December 16, 2020 —Elder financial abuse is a growing concern amid the pandemic, according to Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) CEO and President Carma Peters, as family members stay away from elderly family members out of fear of spreading COVID-19.
“Our credit union has seen an uptick in attempted elder fraud activity, and seniors are at particular risk when they invite someone into their home to provide caregiving, companionship or domestic services,” Peters said. “It is heartbreaking when the elderly, already on a fixed income and finding it difficult to cover monthly expenses, are misled into unknowingly giving their money away to perfect strangers.”
While it can be challenging to determine a case of elder fraud or any fraud for that matter, Peters notes that her credit union has policies and procedures in place, up to and including contacting local police to do well visits on members, when there is suspicion of fraudulent activity. Still, she says there is one optimal way to avoid losing money because of fraud.
“The most important tool in the fight against financial fraud is for the elderly to have a trusted advocate added as a joint owner on the elder’s account,” Peters said. “That gives us the legal permission to speak with the individual on behalf of the primary account holder when we have concerns.”
Other methods to help senior citizens protect their money include paying utility bills and mortgage payments online or through a mobile platform to avoid having non-family members handle a senior’s personal checkbook. This also ensures bills are paid if the elderly are hospitalized, as they can be set up automatically and can be especially helpful to ensure that insurance or supplemental policies are not cancelled inadvertently.
“Using checks to pay bills creates another opportunity for seniors to be swindled, with checks being made out to cash instead of the utility or mortgage holder,” Peters said. “Online and mobile banking and direct bill pay are easy to set up and use when seniors are given guided instructions – and such training and troubleshooting is provided by Michigan Legacy at no charge for members using our banking products.”
Peters notes that while the elderly are most vulnerable, financial abuse can happen at any age.
“The risk of becoming a victim of fraud or financial abuse is not a concern exclusive to the elderly – it can happen at any age. That’s why personal, financial or banking information should never be provided through any communication vehicle to anyone not associated with your own credit union, bank, insurance company or other place where you do business,” Peters said.
Peters reminds people that there are multiple financial schemes circulating at any given time, including money requested for romantic purposes, often online to strangers; an invitation to send money to make money; and urgent demands to assist a relative in distress overseas.
“People who find themselves in a position of feeling pressured to send money in a scenario that doesn’t feel right need to seek guidance from their local credit union or financial institution if they don’t have a trusted family member they can consult with first,” Peters said. “The first line of defense is to ignore the request altogether.”
About Michigan Legacy Credit Union
Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. With six physical branches in Flat Rock, Garden City, Highland, Pontiac, Warren and Wyandotte, and a mobile app that provides credit union services—such as opening an account, changing an address, applying for and closing on a new loan, including mortgages—via a virtual video teller, Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.