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The Steps Banks Are Taking to Protect Against Financial Elder Abuse

Dec 09 2019

By Jess Walter

At least 20 percent of older adults in America have been victims of financial abuse, according to MarketWatch. It’s highly likely that this figure is higher, as many cases go unreported due to embarrassment or fear. Many banks are putting additional measures into place to try to prevent elder financial abuse. But what exactly are they doing, and how will it benefit the aging population?

Knowledgeable frontline staff

In 2017, just 71 percent of front-line staff employed in the nation’s banks received training on elder financial abuse. This number has now increased to 90 percent, which means that there are more staff than ever that are able to raise the alarm and take action to prevent an older adult from being exploited. Sixty percent of banks even have a designated person or team of people who have the responsibility of stopping older adults from being financially abused.

Improved practices

When a financial institution suspects that something untoward is going on with an elderly customer’s finances, they will make direct contact with the individual to try to get to the bottom of the situation. Almost all institutions will call the individual, and 80 percent will invite them in to discuss their concerns face-to-face. These are two effective methods of safeguarding an elderly person’s finances, as they give the bank the opportunity to discuss their concerns regarding their customer’s sudden change in banking habits, to ensure that all transfers are legit and are being made by the individual of their own free-will, and to educate them on the importance of keeping their banking information private.

Educating seniors

Many banks now offer education programs designed to give the older population all the information and resources required to stop them from being financially mistreated. In just a year, there was an increase of nine percent in the number of financial institutions providing such a service. The Safe Banking for Seniors Initiative is sponsored by five U.S. banks, and promotes safe banking to older adults and their caregivers, while Wells Fargo has a Hands-on Banking course created specifically for older individuals.

Escalating cases of abuse

Eighty-one percent of financial institutions will report a suspected case of elder financial abuse to adult protective services (APS). By doing this, APS will step in and take action to ensure that the individual and their finances are safe. They will work on behalf of the individual and will contact financial institutions to gain all the information about the case so that they can then take the appropriate action to prevent it from happening again. This may include contacting law enforcement or arranging for the power of attorney to play more of a role in their finances going forward.

Millions of older adults are being financially exploited, and many of them will never speak up about it. This has led to financial institutions, including banks, to step in and introduce new and improved ways to safeguard their older customers’ finances, such as better training for their staff and holding informative courses designed specifically for the elderly.