One out of every five seniors is mistreated in some form and there are 5 million victims each year, according to an officer for Farmers and Merchants Bank.

Jacque Wells, bank secrecy officer, spoke to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club about elder financial abuse earlier this month.

She said that her title of secrecy officer encompasses a wide range of duties including overseeing schemes of money laundering and other fraudulent transactions.

“Always safeguard Medicare cards and other identifiers. Always be on the alert. Ask questions for your own safety, and never be afraid to report suspicious activity,” she said.

Wells said the vast majority of the financial fraud cases are perpetrated by family members of the victim. She said that 90 percent of those cases involve family members or trusted friends who wrongfully use the assets of the elder victim.

Many of these criminal acts are not reported for a variety of reasons including reluctance on the part of the victim to report the crime, she said.

All financial institutions are classified as mandatory reporters so they are trained to look for problems to assist their depositors with watching for problems, Wells said.

Romance scams often snag seniors, she said. In these scams some people are drawn into an online relationship with someone who poses as a love interest, but eventually is just seeking money not affection.

Another popular scheme against elders is the grandparent scheme. The criminal will call an elderly person and claim to be a grandchild in trouble seeking funds to get out of jail or other possible pitfalls.

Many of the scams come through phone calls, while others arrive through the mail or e-mail. Wells also reminded those in attendance that lottery scams are also very frequent.

“You cannot win a lottery you haven’t entered. You should never pay a fee to win a prize in a lottery you have not entered,” Wells said.

One of the lighter moments in her presentation came when Wells set the parameters for the term elderly as those age 60 and over.

Chuckles and other reactions filled the room, as likely many of those in attendance fell above the age line.

Wells talked about her passion for serving the elderly.

She said that her family had hired a caretaker for her father a few years back. The female earned Wells’ father’s trust and, without the family’s knowledge, had taken him to the courthouse and married him so she would be entitled to spousal rights and access.

The damage to the family finances was minimal as the family had the foresight to protect many of the assets prior to her father falling victim to this woman, Wells said.