Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends

Since 2013, financial institutions have reported to the federal government over 180,000 suspicious activities targeting older adults, involving a total of more than $6 billion. These reports indicate that financial exploitation of older adults by scammers, family members, caregivers, and others is widespread in the United States. The reports also provide unique data on these suspicious activities, which can enhance ongoing efforts to prevent elder financial exploitation and to punish wrongdoers.

This study analyzes a rich, non-public data set to shed light on the volume and characteristics of elder financial exploitation (EFE). The study explores the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed with the federal government by financial institutions such as banks and money services businesses. This is the first public analysis of EFE SAR filings since the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which receives and maintains the database of SARs, introduced electronic SAR filing with a designated category for “elder financial exploitation” in 2013.

This report presents findings based on selected data fields from all EFE SARs filed between 2013 and 2017. The report also presents findings based on a representative sample of SAR transcripts, which include a narrative portion supplied by the financial institution. The findings provide an opportunity to better understand the complex problem of elder financial exploitation and to identify ways to improve prevention and response.