How to recognize elder abuse if your dealership is targeted

It sounds awful, because it is.

The illegal, unauthorized or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship for the benefit of someone other than the older individual.

“This includes, but is not limited to, depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings or assets,” according to the Enterprise Fraud Management (EFM) team at Santander Consumer USA (SC).

Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property, or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.


“We have seen an uptick in activity and awareness with elder abuse investigations at SC and amongst our peers in the Auto Industry,” said Mark Kasak of the company’s EFM team.


What you need to know about fraud risk – and why you should care (Part 1)

Identity fraud can take ‘enormous toll’ on your dealership profits (Part 2)

How to change the odds in your favor against application fraud (Part 3)

What straw buyer fraud could mean to your dealership and how to avoid it (Part 4)

One report in a small-town newspaper in Georgia recounted how the niece of an elderly couple obtained guardianship over her uncle and aunt, then discovered that a sitter had stolen money from them to put a down payment on a vehicle for her boyfriend. The niece also discovered that her uncle’s name was on the car loan, but that the title was in his and the boyfriend’s names. There was no indication that the car dealership participated in the fraud.

“Perpetrators of elder financial abuse are often family members, friends, caregivers or the common predatory scammer, but the result is usually the same,” said the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs. “The victim is robbed of his or her savings or income and left in despair.”

Here’s what Santander Consumer USA’s Driving a New Model | A dealer guide to recognizing the warning signs of fraud, identifying suspicious buyers and taking action to reduce costs suggests to look for to reduce elder abuse fraud risk at your dealership:

The Red Flags

  • Buyer applies with an older adult to be the co-buyer
  • Older adult can’t come to dealership to sign contract
  • Older person makes statements like “I’m only here to help”
  • Applicant and co-buyer have different addresses
  • No reasonable benefit to the older adult in the vehicle being purchased
  • Older adult is on a fixed monthly income that does not support the vehicle payment

And the Checklist

  • Both applicants present at time of contract signing
  • Don’t allow the contract to leave the dealer premises
  • Ask about power of attorney and caregiver relationship
  • Ask older adult for independent references and contact the reverences

“Santander Consumer USA (SC) is committed to working with dealers to raise awareness of fraud and elder-abuse risks in the retail auto space,” says Driving a New Model, which was created by SC’s fraud management group. “Watching for red flags is the most cost-effective way of preventing fraud and reducing expenses related to fraud, reputation, regulatory and financial risks.”

This series, Driving a New Model, is aimed at helping dealers spot the red flags for identity fraud, application misrepresentation, straw buyers and elder abuse, and includes actionable checklists.

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