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Utah: A Leader in Protecting Seniors from Exploitation

When Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff invited me to Salt Lake City to meet with him, state and local senior services, and law enforcement groups, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to see how Utah is handling the opportunities and challenges of a booming senior population.

Utah has the sixth-fastest growth rate in the nation for people 65 and older. Unfortunately, Utah’s seniors are increasingly targets of financial crimes including financial exploitation. I was struck by the statistic that Utah’s seniors lose an average of $1 million per week to thieves and saddened that, in most cases, their own children and grandchildren are responsible for the crime.

I was pleased, however, to find that Utah is truly a state leader on seniors’ issues. I spoke with representatives from Utah Legal Services, the Division of Aging and Adult Services, Salt Lake County Aging Services, the LDS Church, and several local police departments. All of them are working hard to educate seniors, prevent exploitation, and prosecute criminals who prey on seniors. Even better, they came to the meeting with great ideas for improving seniors’ financial well-being and how the CFPB could help.

I want to share three of those ideas with you.

The first is a booklet put out by Utah’s Division of Aging and Adult Services, Navigating Your Rights: The Utah Legal Guide for Those 55 and Over. This fantastic book informs Utah seniors, in plain language and easy-to-read large type, about state and federal resources that can help them with important decisions like avoiding scams, obtaining benefits and medical insurance, and finding housing and care. It is one of the best lay-fiduciary guides I’ve ever seen, and I will be sharing it with the other states I visit.

The second idea came from the local police officers, who told me that they frequently meet with seniors to educate them on the risks of financial exploitation. The officers want to make sure that the seniors they talk to have up-to-date information on the latest scams and the resources necessary to avoid them. We are uniquely positioned to identify new trends in elder financial exploitation, and I look forward to partnering with state law enforcement agencies to share this information. Working together, we can stop new scams before they spread.

Finally, everyone at the table told me that they needed help navigating power of attorney arrangements. Many didn’t understand the extent of what they could and couldn’t do. I’m happy to say that the CFPB is developing a guide to help caregivers who have a power of attorney over an older person’s finances, and you should stay tuned for its release.

Thank you again to my friend, Attorney General Shurtleff, for inviting me to Utah to hear these great ideas.

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