Late on the night of May 15, 2017, Arthur Schrieber Jr. of St. Louis was restless. He just knew his life was going to change the next morning, so he was too excited to sleep.
After tossing and turning, Schrieber, 84 at the time, finally got out of bed in the wee hours of the morning and put on his best suit and tie.
Then he began waiting for the Publishers Clearing House prize patrol to deliver his grand prize that day.
“When my dad told me he had won the PCH sweepstakes, bells and whistles went off in my head,” said Arthur “Chad” Schrieber III, a U.S. Bank application developer based in St. Louis. “I thought, ‘This is not good.’”
To make matters worse, a van did pull up in front of the Schriebers’ home that day, and someone came to the door with balloons and a gift bag. But it wasn’t PCH with a big check – it was a mattress company representative who eventually talked the elder Schrieber into buying a $5,000 bed he didn’t need, with an 18 percent loan he couldn’t afford.
Chad Schrieber says his father was the Chief Financial Examiner for the state of Missouri, so he was all too familiar with fraud. But his dad’s mental health has been deteriorating as he’s gotten older, leading him to invest in scams that have wiped out his retirement savings. Not only that, but his father constantly receives phone calls, junk mail and emails from other fraudsters. The last time Chad checked his father’s email inbox, he found about 18,000 unread emails, nearly all of them from scammers.
Arthur Schrieber gets solicitations urging him to invest in everything from bitcoins to binary options, in which the payoff is a fixed monetary amount – or nothing. Arthur got so upset by an IRS scam recently that he got into his car while he was still on the phone with the scammer to drive to his bank.
“I jumped in the car with him – and put the call on speaker,” Chad Schrieber said. “While we were sitting with the banker, who canceled his credit card and helped explain to him that it was a scam, his phone rings. It was a second fraudster, who said, ‘I heard you may have fallen for a scam.’ Then he offered to help my dad get his money back, if my dad would give him 20 percent of whatever they could return to him.”
Sadly, the Schriebers’ situation is not uncommon. The National Council on Aging reports, “Financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered, ‘the crime of the 21st century.’” Elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans $36.5 billion a year, according to NCOA.
For Chad Schrieber, a growing national problem has become very personal. It has put a strain on the family, as his father lives with him and his family. To fight back, Chad started doing his own research into the problem and ways to avoid fraud. He compiled so much information that he and his wife, Kelly – who is a cybersecurity expert – have put together a presentation, “Outsmarting the Scammers,” that they’ve given at their church twice so far, with hopes of expanding their efforts more broadly.
He has started to reach out to U.S. Bank employees involved in elder financial education to see how he can help those efforts.
“The angst my dad was experiencing that morning the bed people showed up was absolutely tied to the many emails he was getting saying he was a winner,” he said. “He is still upset. It has been heartbreaking.”
U.S. Bank works to draw attention to the growing threat during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in June, and all year-round.
The bank has a strong enterprise operations policy on elder and vulnerable adult financial exploitation, says Neal Richardson, head of financial education at U.S. Bank. “This is important work to us, and we want to be a line of defense for elders and their families. In addition to providing training and up-to-date reference materials for our employees, we conduct campaigns to educate our customers and communities.”
To learn more about elder financial exploitation and how to prevent it, visit the new U.S. Bank Financial IQ site. You can also talk to bankers at your local U.S. Bank branch, who can help you identify fraud “red flags” and assist you with ways to prevent it.
Heather Draper works in public affairs and communications with U.S. Bank.