By Danny Yarnall
Elder financial abuse is a growing problem. The perpetrators are not just phone scammers and greedy relatives, but professionals whose duty is to care for a disabled older adult. They gain and exploit an older adults’ trust, resulting in major financial losses. Terry Ann McIntosh, 75, was one such victim.
McIntosh was scammed by a woman she hired as a home caregiver who gained access to her Bank of America account through phone representatives despite failing security questions. No one at the bank notified McIntosh, not even during her weekly visits to her branch, according to Bloomberg News.
Financial institutions filed 63,500 suspicious activity reports to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2017, quadruple the amount four years ago, for $1.7 billion in losses, Bloomberg reports. But some experts believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The CFPB told Bloomberg that all reports may account for less than 2% of incidents. One financial services firm estimated $36.5 billion in losses from financial abuse for the same year.
“We have a public health problem and yet we don’t even know how big it is and key actors aren’t stepping up to do their part. This chaos and absence of reporting are unacceptable,” said Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center and creator of the concept of whealthcare, a public health call to action to the healthcare and financial sectors to work together to detect, prevent and document elder financial abuse.
The National Adult Protective Services Organization (NAPSA) and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging have developed two new initiatives to address the under-reporting and failure to act.
The first is an improved version of NAPSA’s National Guidelines for elder financial abuse protection. This update takes shape in streamlining old forms and protocols from 2013, such as its Official Request for Customer Records, a form that helps APS investigators obtain necessary financial documents and information for pursuing instances of abuse. In simplifying these processes, NAPSA hopes to generate standardization of its resources between financial institutions and adult protective services. The goal is to make it easier to track, and therefore measure, the size and severity of the problem of financial abuse.
The second is the creation of a National Clearinghouse on Financial Exploitation. The clearinghouse is a consolidated, comprehensive source for anyone looking for answers to questions, links to resources, introduction to partners and problem solving regarding financial abuse. You can submit an inquiry here to access the clearinghouse.
Karlawish applauds these initiatives. “These are precisely the kinds of policies and resources Americans need to protect their health and wealth.”