10 Ways Banks Can Help Prevent Elder Financial Exploitation

Not only are family members and financial caregivers watching out for financial abuse targeted at the elderly, including vulnerable nursing home residents, but banks and other financial institutions are also filing an increasing number of suspicious account reports (SARs). This year, the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans received over 180,000 encounters of suspicious elder financial exploitation (EFE), involving a total of more than $6 billion since 2013.

Noted in a 2019 report published by the Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans, banks reported a total of $1.7 billion in suspicious activities in just 2017, including actual losses and attempts to steal the older adults’ funds.

In addition:

  • Nearly 80 percent of EFE SARs involved a monetary loss to older adults and/or filers (i.e. financial institutions).
  • In EFE SARs involving a loss to an older adult, the average amount lost was $34,200. In 7 percent of these EFE SARs, the loss exceeded $100,000.
  • When a filer lost money, the average loss per filer was $16,700.
  • One third of the individuals who lost money were ages 80 and older.
  • Adults ages 70 to 79 had the highest average monetary loss ($45,300).

Officials say these occurrences likely represent only a tiny fraction of actual incidents of elder financial abuse. In some cases, family members or elder account holders may be notified, but banks and money managers aren’t yet reporting all instances of elder financial exploitation to law enforcement or adult protective services.

Case Study: Elder Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Family members or someone the victim may know, such as a caregiver, are too often the guilty party in these cases. In 2018, Levin & Perconti attorneys Steve Levin and Mike Bonamarte offered legal support alongside the Cook County Public Guardian for a 97-year-old woman with dementia who was financially exploited by her own nursing home care staff. The aging resident with dementia and no living relatives, had her life savings, for the sum of three quarters a million dollars, taken from her by five employees at Symphony Residences of Lincoln Park, located at 1366 W Fullerton Ave in Chicago.

Financial abuse targeting nursing home residents can happen over time, making it one of the most difficult crimes to detect. Elderly are more vulnerable to this type of abuse for a number of reasons including less access and comprehension to banking technology. Those living in nursing homes may be less capable, both physically and mentally, to check-in on savings and take care of their finances properly and may rely on others to assist them. Some of the most common examples of financial abuse include:

  • Forging Resident’s Signature
  • Cashing Resident’s Checks without Authorization
  • Taking Money or Property
  • Using a Resident’s Bank Card or Checks
  • Deceit or Forcing Resident to Sign Over Money or Possessions
  • Improper Power of Attorney

Financial losses are almost always greater when the older adult knows the suspect. In 2017, the average loss per person was about $50,000 when the older adult knew the suspect and $17,000 when the suspect was a stranger. This is because residents may be very trusting to their caregivers and family members. But when uncovered, there is legal recourse for those who have been taken advantage of financially. Any type of stealing or misappropriation of an elderly person’s money is not only immoral, it usually creates a trail of criminal behavior against elderly who are also being financially exploited. Financial institutions can assist in these types of investigations and help prevent the abuse from happening to others.

10 Recommendations for Banks and Money Managers to Prevent EFE

Key recommendations outlined for banks and those responsible for holding money for older Americans, including those residing in nursing homes, were provided in March of 2016 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Take these recommendations to a loved one’s bank and be sure to ask questions about how leaders are battling financial abuse against customers and request information on how often SARs are filed on behalf of older Americans.

  • Train management and staff to prevent, detect and respond.
  • Use technology to monitor for signs of elder financial exploitation.
  • Report all cases of suspected exploitation to relevant federal, state and local authorities.
  • File Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).
  • Expedite documentation requests from Adult Protective Services (APS), law enforcement and other government entities investigating reports of financial exploitation.
  • Comply with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E.
  • Enable older account holders to consent to information sharing with trusted third parties.
  • Offer age-friendly services that can enhance protections against financial exploitation.
  • Work with law enforcement and Adult Protective Services.
  • Coordinate efforts to educate older account holders, caregivers and the public.

The prevention of elder financial abuse is more than important today than it was 25 years ago as thieves have much easier opportunities to steal with the help of technology. And as much as we depend on nursing home administrators and family members to be aware of any warning signs that may show the mismanagement of funds or a record of stolen money, financial institutions should also act because non-strangers of account holders are also guilty of stealing.

Chicago’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

The Illinois nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti can help if the personal finances of a loved one has been mismanaged or failed to be protected by their banking institutions. Levin & Perconti is one of the most widely-known and respected elder abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million-dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals and families who have been impacted by all types of elder abuse, malpractice, or neglect.

Our consultations are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. Click here to fill out an online request form or call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872.

Source: Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans. (2019). Suspicious Activity Reports on Elder Financial Exploitation: Issues and Trends.