How To Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report that explains how to prevent elder financial exploitation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over the next decade, the age of the population is going to dramatically shift. By 2030, Baby Boomers will all have reached 65 which means one in five residents of the United States will be of retirement age. This also means the overall population will be more prone to financial exploitation, by virtue of the fact we will all be older.  Here are some of the things we know and some steps we may be able to implement to help curb the problems.

Elder Financial Exploitation is Widespread and Damaging

During 2017 alone, 63,500 elder financial exploitation SARs were filed by financial institutions representing more than $1.7 billion dollars in reports. We know from reviewing the data, the older the person, the higher the losses they were likely to suffer. This is unfortunate because every year as our senior population gets older means they are at greater risk of being exploited. Unfortunately, we also know from reading the report these filings are more than likely only a smaller percentage, perhaps two percent or less, of the actual cases of elder financial exploitation . 

How to Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation

1. Enlist Law Enforcement or Adult Protective Services

One of the more disturbing aspects of the reports which were reviewed is how few cases of elder financial exploitation are reported to either protective services or to local or state law enforcement agencies. This is unfortunate because this may mean the person who is responsible is not being held accountable.

We know if EFE is reported to law enforcement it could mean more prosecutions. Since these tend to be high-profile, one could see this type of action as more of a deterrent than it currently does. We learned from reviewing data, fewer than one third of the cases which are reported have been reported to law enforcement. We should be enlisting the assistance of law enforcement at all levels to prosecute the wrongdoers.

Adult protective services agencies exist in every state. One concern we have is victims of EFE often do not understand the ways they can fight back, nor do they get the services they may need after being victimized. Encouraging reporters to also report their suspicions to elder protective services can help get our most vulnerable population the services they may need after they have suffered this type of abuse.

2. EFE SARs are a Useful and Untapped Resource

All agencies, including federal, statewide, city, and local can use the data provided by those who file SARs to help monitor elderly financial exploitation. However, this data can also help these agencies develop independent and collaborative efforts to help educate seniors and the community about the most common types of fraud perpetrated upon our most vulnerable community members. These reports should continue to be evaluated on an annual basis to develop an understanding of not only trends in the type of abuse which is occurring but also to develop an understanding of victims.

3. Intervention Strategies Can be Tailored by Industry

Depository institutions, money service businesses, and other financial institutions can, and should be better trained to more rapidly identify potential EFE. Because each type of financial company has different “flags” which may be raised, the study of EFE SARs can be an invaluable tool to help develop training for employees, as well as strategies to help intervene when any type of financial fraud is suspected.

4. Law Enforcement Can and Should Be More Proactive

Law enforcement agencies should have full access to the SARs reports where cases of EFE are reported. This can provide them the ability to investigate cases when they are initially identified. Working with prosecutors, the information provided in the SARs can help bring more prosecutions for EFE which could possibly reduce the rate of seniors losing money due to fraudulent activity.

Unfortunately, there will always be someone who is attempting to game a system and elderly financial exploitation will continue to be a problem as long as there are con artists and seniors. We should be taking all necessary and possible steps to help protect those who are the most vulnerable from losing money because someone has illegally gained access to their bank accounts, credit cards, or their identity.

We should be protecting our seniors, most of who can ill afford to have money stolen from them. This is money most have worked their entire lives to save so they could have a more secure retirement and leave a nest egg for their loved ones. Remember, at some point, nearly all of us will be older and more vulnerable to financial exploitation. We could all benefit from the insights gained from this report and we can all help bring attention to this problem by reaching out to our family members, local politicians, and local elder services agencies and helping them understand both potential signs of elder financial exploitation, but also what steps we feel should be taken to significantly reduce the incidents.

The full report on how to prevent elder financial exploitation released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can be found here.

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