Protecting Older Americans from financial abuse

We took an important step today towards looking out for older American consumers. Director Richard Cordray announced a public inquiry to learn more about the many ways in which older Americans are financially exploited and about the best practices for elder financial management.

Congress gave my Office for Older Americans a broad mandate to look out for the consumer financial interests of older Americans. As part of that work, we are keenly focused on the important issue of financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly. According to a recent study, seniors lost at least $2.9 billion to financial exploitation in 2010. Unfortunately, it is a growing trend. From 2008 to 2010, there was a 12 percent increase in the amount of money scammed from seniors.

The CFPB wants to hear from the public – especially people working directly with seniors – about these issues. In particular, we want input on how seniors can best determine the legitimacy of the credentials of financial planners and advisors. We’re also seeking information on what financial education, counseling or management programs are tailored to the unique needs of older Americans, their families, and their caregivers. We want to know what programs exist and and how effective they are.

We are looking out for our senior veterans, too. The Bureau wants feedback on what specific types of fraudulent, unfair, abusive, or deceptive practices target older veterans or military retirees. We know that Veterans Affairs “Aid and Attendance” benefits exploitation and military pension buyout schemes are being used in ways that can put veterans’ assets and pensions at risk. We want to learn more so we can better help older veterans and military retirees protect themselves.

The information we gather will benefit senior consumers in many ways. As my Office conducts its research on certifications and designations of senior financial advisors, the information we hope to gather here will give us a better picture of what is happening in the marketplace. With that information we can let seniors know where to look for fair and sound advice from reliable resources. Then they can make their own informed choices.

We want our inquiry to be as complete as possible and we need your input. The information gathered from this Request for Information will help guide future work for the Bureau and my office. We want to help seniors avoid fraud and make good, responsible decisions when they make financial choices. So please let us know about your experiences, good and bad.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Due to technical issues, the commenting feature of our blog is temporarily unavailable. We’re working to bring this functionality back, and look forward to hearing your feedback and comments about the CFPB’s work soon.