Terry Ann McIntosh’s financial nightmare began four years ago, soon after she hired a caregiver through a family services website. McIntosh, then 75 and in a wheelchair, had assumed that the young woman who eventually showed up at her San Mateo, Calif., home wouldn’t steal from her. She was wrong.

In October 2015, Meletofetofe Uhila began logging into McIntosh’s Bank of America account, using the older woman’s credentials. The first time, Uhila attempted to transfer $10,000 into her own account. The bank blocked it, requesting that McIntosh call in to verify her identity. Uhila called instead, pretending to be her.

Though Uhila failed the bank’s security questions, and McIntosh had never made a similar transfer in all the years she held the account, the bank allowed it to go through. Unaware, McIntosh continued to visit her branch every week, as she had done for the past 15 years. No bank employee ever mentioned the transaction.

Over the next nine months, Uhila made 44 additional transfers, ultimately stealing about $245,000 from McIntosh. Though Uhila was eventually caught and convicted, she had only $8,000 left to return to McIntosh. So McIntosh asked Bank of America for her money back. Despite all the seemingly bright red flags raised by Uhila’s conduct, the bank said no.

Tales such as McIntosh’s—of being hoodwinked by a criminal only to face an uphill battle to be made whole—are on the rise, consumer and legal experts warn. Already targeted by phone scammers and greedy relatives, elderly Americans have a “bull’s-eye” on their backs, one Iowa assistant attorney general who specializes in elder abuse cases said, adding that the problem is only getting worse.

And while financial institutions are becoming more responsive and incorporating more safeguards to protect against elder fraud and manipulation, America’s most vulnerable face another, more insidious threat. Increasingly, it’s the professionals—the lawyers, insurers and financial advisers that the elderly trust—who are the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In 2017, financial institutions filed 63,500 suspicious activity reports tied to the exploitation of older adults, quadruple the amount reported four years earlier, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for a total of $1.7 billion in attempted thefts and losses. That estimate, however, is a tiny fraction of the real total. The reports “may account for less than 2%” of actual incidents, the CFPB says. Estimates of total losses ranged as high as $36.5 billion, according to one financial services firm.

One in five older Americans is a victim of financial exploitation, said Jilenne Gunther, who heads the BankSafe initiative at the AARP’s Public Policy Institute, costing U.S. financial institutions $1 billion in deposits annually. The vast majority of such attempts to separate the elderly from their money, both legal and illegal, go unreported.

Shawna Reeves, director of elder-abuse prevention at the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, says few understand that such activity can involve professional firms and companies, including banks, financial advisers, insurers and law firms.

“This is big business, perpetrated by actors people think are legitimate,” said Reeves. According to social workers, prosecutors, and other officials across the country, common stratagems involve attempts to sell the elderly ill-advised annuities and reverse mortgages, as well as solar panel installations and access to veterans’ benefits.

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