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Issued: February 22, 2011
Subject: Advisory to Financial Institutions on Filing Suspicious Activity Reports
Regarding Elder Financial Exploitation

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is issuing this advisory to assist the financial industry in reporting instances of financial exploitation of the elderly, a form of elder abuse.1 Financial institutions can play a key role in addressing elder financial exploitation due to the nature of the client relationship. Often, financial institutions are quick to suspect elder financial exploitation based on bank personnel familiarity with their elderly customers. The valuable role financial institutions can play in alerting appropriate authorities to suspected elder financial exploitation has received increased attention at the state level; this focus is consistent with an upward trend at the federal level in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) describing instances of suspected elder financial exploitation.2 Analysis of SARs reporting elder financial exploitation can provide critical information about specific frauds and potential trends, and can highlight abuses perpetrated against the elderly.

This advisory contains examples of "red flags" based on activity identified by various state and federal agencies and provides a common narrative term that will assist law enforcement in better identifying suspected cases of financial exploitation of the elderly reported in SARs.

Older Americans hold a high concentration of wealth as compared to the general population. In the instances where elderly individuals experience declining cognitive or physical abilities, they may find themselves more reliant on specific individuals for their physical well-being, financial management, and social interaction. While anyone can be a victim of a financial crime such as identity theft, embezzlement, and fraudulent schemes, certain elderly individuals may be particularly vulnerable.

Potential Indicators of Elder Financial Exploitation

The following red flags could indicate the existence of elder financial exploitation. This list of red flags identifies only possible signs of illicit activity. Financial institutions should evaluate indicators of potential financial exploitation in combination with other red flags and expected transaction activity being conducted by or on behalf of the elder. Additional investigation and analysis may be necessary to determine if the activity is suspicious.

Financial institutions may become aware of persons or entities perpetrating illicit activity against the elderly through monitoring transaction activity that is not consistent with expected behavior. In addition, financial institutions may become aware of such scams through their direct interactions with elderly customers who are being financially exploited. In many cases, branch personnel familiarity with specific victim customers may lead to identification of anomalous activity that could alert bank personnel to initiate a review of the customer activity.

Suspicious Activity Reporting

SARs continue to be a valuable avenue for financial institutions to report elder financial exploitation. Consistent with the standard for reporting suspicious activity as provided for in 31 CFR Part 103 (future 31 CFR Chapter X), if a financial institution knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that a transaction has no business or apparent lawful purpose or is not the sort in which the particular customer would normally be expected to engage, and the financial institution knows of no reasonable explanation for the transaction after examining the available facts, including the background and possible purpose of the transaction, the financial institution should then file a Suspicious Activity Report.3

In order to assist law enforcement in its effort to target instances of financial exploitation of the elderly, FinCEN requests that financial institutions select the appropriate characterization of suspicious activity in the Suspicious Activity Information section of the SAR form and include the term "elder financial exploitation" in the narrative portion of all relevant SARs filed. The narrative should also include an explanation of why the institution knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that the activity is suspicious. It is important to note that the potential victim of elder financial exploitation should not be reported as the subject of the SAR. Rather, all available information on the victim should be included in the narrative portion of the SAR.

Elder abuse, including financial exploitation, is generally reported and investigated at the local level, with Adult Protective Services, District Attorney's offices, sheriff's offices, and police departments taking key roles. We emphasize that filers should continue to report all forms of elder abuse according to institutional policies and the requirements of state and local laws and regulations, where applicable. Financial institutions may wish to consider how their AML programs can complement their policies on reporting elder financial exploitation at the local and state level.

Financial institutions with questions or comments regarding this Advisory should contact FinCEN's Regulatory Helpline at 800-949-2732.

1 Abuse and exploitation of the elderly is statutorily defined at the state level. The National Center on Elder Abuse offers the following definition of exploitation as a type of elder abuse: "the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder."
2 Bank Secrecy Act data reflects increasing use of terms related to elder financial exploitation/abuse in SAR narratives.
3 Financial institutions shall file with FinCEN to the extent and in the manner required a report of any suspicious transaction relevant to a possible violation of law or regulation. A financial institution may also file with FinCEN a Suspicious Activity Report with respect to any suspicious transaction that it believes is relevant to the possible violation of any law or regulation but whose reporting is not required by FinCEN regulations. See, e.g., 31 CFR 103.18(a) (future 31 CFR 1020.320(a)).