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CFPB Report Finds Hundreds of Counties Fighting Elder Financial Abuse with Community Efforts
Thursday, August 25, 2016 6:35 AM

CFPB Issues Guide, Best Practices to Help Communities Create Protection Partnerships

On Tuesday the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report that found hundreds of counties around the country developing coordinated community-based efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial exploitation.

The report also found that a strong collaboration among community stakeholders, like financial institutions, adult protective services, and law enforcement, can be very effective in protecting their older residents from financial exploitation. To help other communities across the country create their own protection partnerships to fight elder financial abuse, the CFPB has released a resource guide and best practices.

“Hundreds of counties have developed a community-based approach to protect their seniors and retirees from financial exploitation,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We’ve learned that an ‘all hands on deck’ strategy can be very effective to fight elder financial fraud. Our new guide and recommendations can help more community stakeholders build these very helpful networks to pool information, expertise, and resources in addressing this growing crisis.”

Older Americans are attractive targets for financial abuse because they may have significant assets or equity in their homes and usually have a regular source of income such as Social Security or a pension. They may also be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, or other health problems. In recent studies, about 17 percent of seniors reported that they have been victims of financial exploitation, but few cases ever come to the attention of protective services.

Elder financial exploitation destroys the financial security of millions of older Americans annually. Estimates of losses to elder Americans range from $2.9 billion to as high as $36.5 billion. Protection partnerships, sometimes called networks, can make it easier for different community stakeholders to detect and respond to elder financial abuse through a variety of activities, including case review and consultation, community education, and professional training and advocacy.

The CFPB’s report takes a closer look at how protection partnerships to combat elder financial abuse operate in several communities and their effectiveness. The report found that these voluntary community-based partnerships can increase reporting of suspected financial exploitation cases, enhance partner skills and ability to address financial exploitation, and provide valuable consumer and professional education. Some recommendations to help community stakeholders to develop or enhance their elder financial abuse response and prevention efforts include: 

  • Creating protection partnerships that involve law enforcement and financial institutions: Professionals and volunteers working with or serving older adults, such as bankers, lawyers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and social workers, should come together to create protection partnerships in communities where they do not currently exist, especially in communities with a large number of older people. Participation of financial institutions and law enforcement in these partnerships is crucial to improve response to cases. Financial institutions are uniquely situated to detect and act when an elder account holder has been targeted or victimized, and are mandated to report suspected elder financial exploitation under many states’ laws. Law enforcement agencies, such as state and local police and county sheriffs’ offices, are responsible for investigating cases and apprehending perpetrators. 
     
  • Serving ethnically, racially, and linguistically diverse and rural communities: Protection partnerships in diverse areas should engage stakeholders that serve these populations, such as community-based groups and faith-based organizations. These organizations can support the partnerships’ educational activities and can provide expert services such as translation services and training on cultural competence. Partnerships should also expand into rural areas that are largely underserved by these community efforts. They can do so by working with stakeholders in other counties and forming regional partnerships to make the best use of limited resources and minimize travel.

View a copy of the report and recommendations.

View and download a copy of the resource guide.

Consumers who suspect they or a loved one has been a victim of financial exploitation can visit eldercare.gov to find a local adult protective services agency and other service providers that can help.