WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report that found that hundreds of counties around the country have developed 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, today the CFPB also 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. To tackle this rapidly growing problem, communities across the country are working to bring together local stakeholders and resources to build protection partnerships. 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 in responding to elder financial abuse. 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 trainings on cultural competence. Partnerships should also expand into rural areas which 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.