Valley First

Canada’s growing senior population means more British Columbians at risk of elder financial abuse, expert says

Canada’s growing senior population means more British Columbians at risk of elder financial abuse, expert says

June 9, 2017

Penticton, B.C.—With the number of Canadian seniors at an all-time high—now outnumbering children for the first time in history, according to the most recent census data—financial abuse of older adults is likely to be a growing issue.

“In recent years we’ve seen more cases of elderly members of the credit union victimized by financial fraud than we have previously,” says Kevin Haarhoff, a senior investigator of corporate security at Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union. “We anticipate these instances will become more and more frequent as the largest segment of our population by age is now seniors.”

According to the World Health Organization, roughly one in 10 older people experience abuse each month, with financial abuse and exploitation topping the list as the most prevalent form of abuse.

“It’s a sad reality that seniors are targeted because of their increased vulnerability—they may have declining physical or mental health and can be socially isolated,” says Haarhoff. “Moreover, seniors are often more financially secure, making them desirable targets for fraudsters.”

Regrettably perpetrators can often be family or friends, which makes this form of abuse complex and difficult to identify. Cases go unreported because the victims feel embarrassed they’ve been taken advantage of by a loved one or they don’t want to get those they care about in trouble with authorities.

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this Thursday, June 15, Haarhoff urges older adults to report it when they are being taken advantage of. He also affirms that elder abuse prevention is everyone’s responsibility and knowing the signs is the first step.

“A sudden shift in behaviour or mood, loss of appetite, withdrawal or a negative change in appearance can all be indicators of abuse,” says Haarhoff. “If you suspect an older adult is being taken advantage of financially, report it to your financial institution. For concerns on any other forms of elder abuse, contact the Seniors Abuse & Information Line from Seniors First B.C., an advocacy and support organization.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a premier provider of banking, investment and insurance services for residents and businesses in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. As a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union with 54 branches and 38 insurance offices throughout the province, Valley First brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience. For more information on Valley First, visit www.valleyfirst.com.

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