What is being done to protect elders from financial exploitation?
In August, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a report on community-based efforts to handle what has been called the crime of the twenty-first century: the financial abuse of elders. The CFPB reported noted that a collaborative effort by financial institutions, adult protective services and law enforcement is critical to protecting elders from financial exploitation.
What is elder financial abuse?
Elders are victims of financial exploitation when an individual or entity in a position of trust and confidence takes or keeps the victim's property for an unlawful purpose, or with the intent to commit fraud, or participates in the crime. Financial abuse can come not only at the hands of financial advisors, but companions and family members as well.
There are a number of ways to detect elder financial abuse such as significant withdrawals from accounts or sudden and dramatic changes to an elder's financial condition. Other signs of exploitation include suspicious changes in wills and other estate planning documents, unpaid bills, unnecessary goods, services and subscriptions, lack of medical care and other suspicious activity.
Seniors are often victims of financial abuse because they frequently have significant assets or equity in their homes. In addition many elders are retirees with Social Security and pension income. Even worse, many seniors are isolated or in cognitive decline, or have other health problems that make them vulnerable to exploitation, and many cases are never reported to adult protective services or other authorities.
The consumer watchdog's report was based on studies of hundreds of counties across the Nation and served as a basis for its resource guide and best practices to prevent, detect and respond to elder financial exploitation. The CFPB believes that voluntary community-based partnerships provide for enhanced reporting of financial exploitation cases, and also provides valuable consumer and professional education.
The CFPB made recommendations on how communities can respond to and prevent elder financial abuse. In this regard, it is essential for bankers, attorneys, social workers and law enforcement authorities to create so-called protection partnerships in communities with high numbers of elder residents. These networks can facilitate the detection of and response to financial abuse by engaging the community in education along with professional training and advocacy.
In spite of the efforts by the CFPB and communities across the country, many elders are still victims of financial abuse. If you or a loved one has been the target of financial exploitation, you should speak to an experienced elder law attorney.