Stopping Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation with "Red Flags" with Real-Time Cryptographic Authentication

Mary Ann Miller
July 28, 2022

As a board member of The Knoble, a non-profit network committed to fighting human crime, I hear a new story about an older adult who has been scammed out of their life savings almost daily. One of the most disturbing aspects of these stories is the fact that, more often than not, the fraudster is not a stranger but a trusted individual who has access to the older adult’s financial and personal information. Common culprits include professional caretakers and relatives.

What is Elder Abuse Financial Exploitation?

FinCen (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) define EFE (elder financial exploitation) as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets. EFE is the most common form of elder abuse.

The rise of digital banking and cryptocurrencies have contributed to the surge in EFE. Fraudsters will often use the information of the older adult to set up an account, link to the older adult’s bank account, and drain the funds.

What are the challenges in detecting EFE?

Without the necessary tools, fraud teams must limit their investigation to focus on identifying visual clues of EFE. They must ask questions like “Is there a hand physically manipulating the older adult’s head? Does the older adult look confused?” Of course, EFE can be more subtle and difficult to identify. Perhaps, for instance, the fraudster is coaching or coercing the older adult. Without phone-based signals, there simply is no way to know. As a result, fraud analysts are forced to make tough decisions on potential human crime cases in the dark, relying not on deterministic data but instead on their hunches.

Fortunately, the technology exists today to arm fraud fighters with the tools they need to protect this vulnerable population from financial abuse.

3 Best Practices to Prevent EFE Fraud

By leveraging Prove’s cryptographic authentication, banks, crypto platforms, and other financial institutions can prevent EFE with three simple steps called PRO:

  1. Possession: verify possession of the phone using cryptographic authentication. (Key questions: Is the older adult truly in physical possession of the phone used to create this account or submit this withdrawal? Or are they being socially engineered to forward an OTP via SMS or complete a doc-scanning link from a remote location?) Prove leverages the SIM card (the same technology used in the EMV chip on credit cards) to verify the possession of the phone.
  2. Reputation: leverage the cryptographic determination to understand the reputation or trustworthiness of the phone interacting in the account opening flow with Prove’s Trust Score™. (Key question: Is the phone a non-fixed VOIP which would be considered a high-risk and unlikely choice for an older adult?) For instance, if a phone has a short tenure, red flags for EFE can begin to appear.
  3. Ownership: Verify the identity of the owner of the phone by leveraging cryptographic determination. (Key question: does the older adult’s PII match the phone ownership records of the device interacting with your service or does that phone number belong to, say, her caretaker or estranged nephew?) These real-time signals can indicate red flags for EFE fraud that can serve as a clear sign to send this account application to a secondary sound referral resolution path.

Prove’s best practices leverage cryptographic authentication to stop elder abuse in its tracks. These steps provide insights and reason codes for your account resolutions and fraud teams to triage account applications more confidently and avoid possible EFE and reputational risk. 


Take a moment to imagine the pain of losing your life savings in a matter of minutes. This is the reality for victims of elder financial exploitation. Fortunately, Prove has the technology to protect this vulnerable population and their hard-earned savings by leveraging cryptographic technology to flag the tell-tale signs of EFE.

If you’re a fraud fighter who is interested in donating your time and expertise to prevent scams that target older adults, visit The Knoble to learn how you can help.

Want to prevent elder financial exploitation (EFE) at your organization?

Speak with a fraud expert today.

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