Jackie: Seniors are often prime targets for scams and financial exploitation. To provide some insight on how you can protect yourself and your loved ones, we're joined by Head of Business Practices for Consumer Banking, Darius Kingsley. Thank you so much for being here today.
Darius: Thanks for having me here today.
Jackie: Darius, we know that the U.S. population is aging. So when it comes to scams and financial exploitation, does it look like the problem's get worse?
Darius: Yeah. Unfortunately, the news is not great. We have two trends working against us. First, the American population is just aging. People are getting older as a whole. And by 2050 it's expected that almost a quarter of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. Second, scammers are getting smarter, better, and faster. And they realize there's a lot of different ways they can target people and get seniors to pick up the phone or respond to an email. They also realize that a lot of people have moved digitally and online, don't transact at the branches much, and they also know that a lot of older customers have become familiar with some of the payment apps. And so they can get seniors often to respond to a scam, send money without even leaving their house.
Jackie: So what are some of the common characteristics that you see in these scams that are targeting seniors?
Darius: You see a couple of things. First and foremost, it's the sense of urgency they create. So you'll get a message saying, "you're in the process of being scammed” through an account you already have, a bank account. Or you'll get a message from a trusted retailer, or from a government agency. And it'll say, "Your account's been hacked or compromised, respond immediately." And I think it's that sense of urgency that makes people want to call back right away, or respond to the email. The second thing you'll see in there is that they'll tell you can fix it by some pretty unconventional means. So it'll say, you need to fix this by buying gift cards. Or maybe making a wire transfer, or using an online app that you might make payments through. And then, lastly, they'll often ask you for personal information, not just your name and address, but things like Social Security Numbers.
Jackie: And, going off of that, is there a basic rule of thumb people can follow to know if something is fake or legitimate?
Darius: Yes. So I think you can look for three things. First, the communication, the message, the email that you get, it shouldn't be directly asking you for payment. Like, that should just never happen. And, second, it should also certainly not ask for payment in some kind of unconventional payment method, again, "Pay through a payment app," or "Pay with crypto currency," or "Pay with gift cards." And then, third, and you see this a lot, the message shouldn't be pushy. It shouldn't be telling you, "Don't get off the phone," "Respond immediately." It should be much more balanced.
Jackie: And with all these scams targeting seniors, what should a person do if they find themselves in that situation?
Darius: So the first thing is not to panic. If you've answered the phone and you're on with someone, you can hang up on them. If it's a robocall, and they've left you a number to call, or an email, and they say, "Call this number," you don't have to call that number. There should always be a public-facing number for consumers. Whether it's a federal agency, you can go on the website and look up their number. If it's a major retailer, or your bank, you can look on the back of your credit card or debit card and call that number, and that will put you through to a calling center. And then you can explain your problem. And if you know someone who has fallen victim to a scam like that, you should tell the them to contact their bank directly, immediately, again with the number that they have on the back of their credit or debit card. And also contact their local, non-emergency police number and file a police report.
Jackie: And, along with being targeted by scammers, seniors also often fall victim to financial exploitation. Can you talk about what financial exploitation looks like?
Darius: Yes. So financial exploitation is where you have a family member, or maybe a caregiver, or some other close friend slowly take advantage of the senior citizen. Maybe they start on the premise of helping them buy groceries, or paying bills, and they gain access to their account information, perhaps they can get their debit card. And, over time, they slowly drain the senior citizen's account of all of their money. And it's humiliating for the senior citizen, and it's just heartbreaking to see.
Jackie: And for people with aging parents, how do you start that conversation with your parents about their financial security and safeguarding their money, without overstepping any boundaries?
Darius: Yeah, so this can be challenging, but it's important to do. The first thing is, is to actually start the conversation. A lot of people get scared and don't want to start it. It's also important to understand your own family's dynamics. Many people in large families find that their parents are maybe much more willing to talk about money with one sibling, which might not be you, than anyone else in the family. And so it may be helpful to have that person initiate the conversation with your parents. And when you're talking to them, it's important to really ask what they think their own financial situation looks like as they get older. What are their expectations? How do they see it happening out? Do they expect to give other family members access to their accounts over time? So having that kind of conversation, asking them how they took care of their own parents, and whether they have the same expectations for themselves, I think that's a really important step. And, finally, if you want help on how to talk to your parents about scams or financial abuse, we've got some great resources on our website, at Chase.com/financialabuse.
Jackie: Darius Kingsley, Head of Business Practices for Consumer Banking, thank you for all of that great information and for being here today.
Darius: Great. Thank you for having me.