It’s estimated that older adults are the victims of between $3-35 billion dollars in fraud each year. It’s hard to know for certain because of how much goes unreported. But as we get older, we become more trusting. We’re also prone to lapses in memory and other cognitive impairments. This additional vulnerability to scams can make laws protecting senior citizens of critical importance.
Elder Financial Abuse Laws
One thing that can perpetuate this fraud is when financial institutions are fearful of reporting possible instances of crime against the elderly. For instance, they might be concerned about violating an institutional requirement for privacy and then facing a lawsuit. The Senior Safe Act of 2018 is an attempt to alleviate those problems.
It does that by providing financial institutions and many of their employees with the ability to gain immunity from certain kinds of liability when reporting possible exploitation. For example, those kinds of protections might be extended to investment advisors, transfer agents, broker-dealers, and even the financial institution itself.
Obtaining this protection requires the institution to provide training in identifying and reporting instances of potential fraud targeted at seniors. They’re also required to make all reports in good faith. But it’s worth noting, there is no mandate to provide training; this is an entirely optional program. That means you can’t assume that your own financial institutions are participating.
Senior Safe Act Limitations
Legislation protecting the elderly has a limited scope by its very nature. In this case, the Senior Safe Act defines seniors as people who are 65 or older. That means financial institutions may still feel discouraged from reporting these problems when they involve those 64 or younger.
Even for adults who are protected, it helps to have a good idea of how to spot the signs of elder financial abuse. There are many signs that your loved ones may be particularly vulnerable. For instance, people who have a difficult time remembering signing documents or making transactions can be at greater risk.
While rarely obvious, you can also look for signs that might indicate financial exploitation is going on. For instance, be alert for suspicious explanations around financial transactions. And if you suspect financial abuse or exploitation of an elderly adult, don’t hesitate to contact your local adult protective services agency.
Because in addition to the Senior Safe Act, there are already a variety of state and federal laws to protect the elderly on the books. You can learn more about local resources and laws for protecting the elderly from the Elder Justice Initiative, a project of the Department of Justice.
Senior Safe Act Summary
Prior to the Senior Safe Act, banks and other financial institutions were sometimes discouraged from reporting possible instances of fraud against the elderly. Elder financial abuse reporting requirements have made it possible to reduce the fear of a lawsuit when making these kinds of reports. That encourages more people to be trained in spotting these kinds of crimes, and helps to helps to formalize the process by which financial institutions can safely report abuse.
The Senior Safe Act may prove to be a useful tool in the fight to protect seniors, but it is not capable of stopping all instances of fraud. It remains important for people to be vigilant about protecting the vulnerable adults in their lives from the unfortunately common problem of elder financial abuse.