Protecting Elderly From Financial Abuse

Financial abuseEmployees of banks and financial institutions may be in the best position to witness actions that cause them to suspect financial abuse of the elderly, according to a recent report “Uncovering Elder Financial Abuse? It’s Tricky.”

As described in the article, a man who makes loans in a company, that is not quite a bank and not quite a payday lending company, remembers when a young man came in for a loan to buy a truck. The young man, 19, did not have any credit history and had only been employed for a few weeks. He brought his grandfather with him to co-sign the loan application.

The grandfather told him, “I don’t really want to, but they’re saying it’s the only way he can get it.” This raised a red flag for the man as a possible instance of elder financial abuse, but it presented a difficult situation. He wanted to make the loan and avoid negative reviews on social media. What should he do?

Some financial institutions are now training their employees for signs of exploitation, keeping an eye out for things that appear out of the ordinary. Examples are a customer at a branch accompanied by someone who isn’t known to the bank, who does all the talking or withdraws large sums of money from a senior’s account.

If a client is in their eighties and the bank account suddenly shows a lot of nightlife spending, it’s a sign that something’s wrong.

One bank has an internal hotline that employees can call. The bank then turns over the report to authorities. There are also government agencies that protect seniors from financial abuse. Alabama’s Department of Human Resources has an Adult Protective Services Division, where one employee says about half of the cases are straightforward and the other half are challenging.

One woman was sending money overseas, thinking she was in a relationship that would end in marriage. She had all her faculties and that’s the key. Since she understood what she was doing, even if she was making poor decisions, there wasn’t much the department could do.

Just because the Department of Human Resources can’t help, that does not mean a crime had not been committed.

Alabama assistant attorney general Diane Dunning says the state has recently passed laws to better combat elder financial exploitation. One such law allows brokers to delay a payout, if they suspect elder abuse.

The law also protects financial professionals from liability, if they make a good faith report of possible abuse.

Resource: (Aug. 7, 2018) “Uncovering Elder Financial Abuse? It’s Tricky.”

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