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FinCEN Supports Efforts to Raise Awareness of Elder Financial Exploitation

FinCEN joins with other Federal, State, and local government agencies and consumer protection organizations in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. FinCEN strongly supports efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse - particularly financial exploitation of the elderly.

In February 2011, FinCEN issued an advisory to financial institutions, alerting them to circumstances that may signify potential financial exploitation of the elderly. The advisory lists indicators that abuse may be occurring and specifically asks financial institutions to include the term "elder financial exploitation" on filings of suspicious activity reports (SARs). Financial institutions responded with a substantial increase in SARs reporting elder financial exploitation, as indicated in a follow-up analysis published in Issue 20 of the SAR Activity Review - Trends, Tips & Issues (October 2011). The article (starting on page 71) provides preliminary feedback on filing trends and addresses common questions received by FinCEN's Regulatory Helpline.

Prior to that, in April 2010, FinCEN, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Office of Inspector General (OIG), issued an advisory to highlight reverse mortgage fraud schemes potentially related to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program so that financial institutions may better assist law enforcement when filing SARs. With the recent difficulties within the housing market, the ability of homeowners to access existing home equity quickly through the HECM and other reverse mortgage programs may be increasing their attractiveness as a target for financial fraud. This advisory contains examples of common fraud schemes and potential indicators of fraudulent activity related to HECMs. This advisory also suggests key words for financial institutions to use when completing SARs involving fraud related to the HECM program so that FinCEN analysts can more easily identify and further warn law enforcement of possible fraud.

In recent years, FinCEN has supported some of the most high-profile health care fraud investigations in the country. The widespread growth of health care fraud throughout the United States and its related costs have increased the focus of Federal law enforcement, which implemented a national strategy to combat this crisis in May 2009. The Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) includes investigators and prosecutors from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) working to strengthen existing programs, investigate fraud, and invest in new resources and technology to prevent future fraud, waste, and abuse. Through FinCEN data analysis for specific geographic locations, FinCEN is partnering closely with law enforcement to identify increasingly complex large-scale fraud schemes and the most egregious individual perpetrators and organized groups defrauding the health care system.