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Setting our targets on elder financial abuse

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Yesterday, I testified in front of Congress about the work we’re doing for older Americans and wanted to share directly with you what we’re up to, as well. This work is incredibly important to me – and our Office for Older Americans as a team is thrilled to be getting to work on what has silently become an epidemic – elder financial abuse.

If you have a story we should hear, make sure to tell your story today.

For the past year, I have been privileged to lead the Office for Older Americans. Our statutory mandate covers two broad areas:

  • protecting consumers over 62 in the financial marketplace; and
  • enhancing their later-life economic security.

In our first year, we have made preventing, detecting and redressing elder financial exploitation job number one.

In doing so, we have recognized that collaboration is critical — on the local, state and national levels, and between the public and private sectors. To jumpstart and foster these collaborative efforts, we have travelled throughout the country to meet with state, local and tribal officials, including attorneys general, financial regulators, adult protective services administrators, commissioners on aging, chief justices, court administrators, and tribal elders.

We have also engaged with non-profits, community organizations and industry groups to explore ways to help and to partner with them. For example, we participate in a working group with the Financial Services Roundtable to enhance the capacity of financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse.

In addition, we have been actively engaged with our federal partners. Last month was the inaugural meeting of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, an 11-agency body convened to shine a light on the disastrous impact of financial exploitation and catalyze the development of a prevention strategy.

At the meeting, we heard important themes from national experts:

  • Older Americans are victimized by a broad range of perpetrators.
  • Collaboration is critical.
  • Diminished capacity is the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
  • We need more and better quality data.
  • And we need a broad-scale public education campaign to raise awareness of elder financial abuse and what to do about it.

CFPB already has initiatives underway that address issues flagged at the Council meeting.

  • We are developing “how-to” guides for agents under powers of attorney, guardians, trustees, Social Security representative payees, and V-A fiduciaries.
  • We are producing a guide to help senior housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities identify and intervene in exploitation cases.
  • Our Money Smart for Older Adults education program, in collaboration with the FDIC, will focus on preventing, recognizing, and reporting elder financial exploitation.
  • We are working in several states to create and sustain coalitions for community education, public awareness, enhanced response, and increased prosecution.
  • And we are developing strategies for communicating to financial institutions that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act generally does not prohibit them from reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement and APS agencies.

Congressional leadership and support is critical to implementing a multi-faceted solution to the serious problem of elder financial exploitation. We look forward to continued information sharing with members of Congress on this important topic and the CFPB’s contributions.

  • Laura Dawson

    As an older American, living with a permanent disability, I can share that once the SSDI benefits checks began to come directing into the bank accounts, there have been multiple cases of fraud that were below the reportable and affidavit level, usually below $20. After my account was charged on three different occaisions, I demanded to sign an affidavit and be reimbursed by the bank for the payments made by them to a false vendor. (Due to identity theft, I no longer use personal checks, heavily relying on bill payment services.)

  • Financial Services Rep

    As a financial services employee, I see this as one of our biggest issues. Certain states have the right laws in place to help combat this, but I think the biggest area of need is education. Financial sector employees need more education of signs to look out for, older Americans need more education regarding their rights and how to detect the scams, and I think the families of older Americans could really benefit from this information as well. The sad part is that often times, it is a family member that is taking advantage of their aging relative and agencies and law enforcement are unable to step in.

  • EastTexan136

    As a private investigator in Texas and a former banker of 30 years, I have seen numerous cases involving Exploitation of the Elderly. So much so that I have a whole page on my website dedicated to it. The problem is, is that its not just the elderly alone being targeted. I am seeing this happen to the baby boomer generation also. Many of the baby boomer generation may not be “classified” as elderly or senior citizens as yet, but people are targeting them also. Mostly going after the widowed or divorced who are lonely. It is on the rise and there are several twists to the exploitation that I have encounter. I am currently in contact with my State Representative about modifying a Texas law to curtail the exploitation that is happening in a certain circumstance. This problem is growing at a very rapid pace!

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