September 8, 2016
Fighting Financial Exploitation of Elders
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a Report and Recommendations on Fighting Elder Financial Exploitation through Community Networks. The Executive Summary opens,
The widespread prevalence of elder financial exploitation destroys the financial security of millions of older Americans annually. In response to this crisis, hundreds of communities across the United States have created collaborative networks to protect their older residents. These networks, which often bring together key community stakeholders and resources, engage in varied activities designed to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial exploitation. (3)
The CFPB’s recommendations include,
- Professionals working with or serving older adults should create networks in communities where they do not currently exist, especially in communities with a large number of older people.
- Members of existing networks should seek to expand resources and capacity as needed.
- Elder abuse networks that do not focus on financial exploitation should develop activities and the capacity to respond to elder financial exploitation by seeking to include as network members professionals with financial expertise, such as forensic accountants. Also, they should implement educational programs for older adults, caregivers, and professionals on how to prevent, detect and respond to financial exploitation.
- Elder financial exploitation networks should seek to include law enforcement as network members and to encourage their meaningful participation in network activities, including but not limited to educational or case review efforts.
- Because financial institutions are uniquely positioned to detect that an elder account holder has been targeted or victimized and to take action, elder financial exploitation networks should seek to include financial institutions, large and small, as network members. Similarly, financial institutions should seek to join and participate in local networks.
- To help ensure the network’s long-term sustainability, financial exploitation networks should implement strategies to institutionalize the coordinator role as a permanent staff position.
- Networks in areas with older Americans of diverse linguistic, ethnic and racial backgrounds should seek to engage stakeholders that serve these populations and deliver educational and case review services relevant and appropriate to these populations.
- Networks should seek to expand coverage into rural areas by creating regional networks through which resources can be shared and by using teleconferencing and videoconferencing in lieu of travel when necessary.
- Networks engaging in educational activities, especially those networks with limited resources, should use existing federal, state and local educational resources. (4-5)
These recommendations are all good as far as they go, but we are only beginning to understand the extent to which seniors’ financial judgment may be impaired by diminishing cognitive functioning and social isolation. I would hope that over the next decade, we can develop a more effective defense of seniors’ finances from the predators who circle and circle until they can pounce with impunity.