LARGE NEED TO REDUCE AND PREVENT FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION
The American Bankers Association is looking to serve a large market that is only getting larger by the day. At the same time, they are working to shore up the larger financial markets in a larger effort to prevent financial fraud perpetrated against seniors. As one banker noted during a speech on the topic, the banking community responded to the need to protect those with diminished ability to discern the difference between a real deal being sold by a legitimate vendor and a scam by predators. In February, 2016 it launched the Safe Banking for Seniors program, with various state bankers association across the nation rolling out their own version modeled on the American Bankers Association.
As of the inception of the program, 30 states joined in to help usher in the program. The New York Bankers Association is not one of the 30 states and does not currently such a program. Nevertheless, it is gaining popularity across the nation and many states bankers associations are seeing the utility and popularity of such a program. Furthermore, the program is not restricted to states bankers associations, individual banks, regional banks and bank chains can join in the program. As the American Bankers Association notes, 30% of the population of the country will be 60 or older by 2025. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the American Bankers Association both note that $2.9 billion per year is lost to fraud perpetrated against elder Americans. Some estimates are as high as $36 billion per year, with only one in 43 cases of financial fraud against an elderly American properly documented and reported. The primary program is designed for banks and bankers associations, which will in turn filter down to individual elderly bank customers.
The program is designed to be a turnkey operation, whereby local banks will partner with local senior citizen centers, senior groups and similar organizations, so as to provide education to bank customers and arm them in their fight to prevent financial fraud and elder financial abuse, such as:
- how to avoid a financial scam; and
- protecting assets by preventing identity theft; and
- choosing a financial caregiver; and
- acting as a responsible financial caregiver.
The program helped to finance the printing of various financial literacy and educational brochures to be distributed on a mass scale so as to reach not just the primary audience of elderly Americans but also their family members who are often their caretakers and who help them make certain decisions. Furthermore, some state bankers associations are providing training to tellers, bank managers and others in the financial industry to help spot what may be elder financial abuse in progress.
The program recognizes that bankers are often on the front line and best able to detect and deal with financial exploitation. The Safe Banking for Seniors programs in some jurisdictions may even report the suspicious activity to the state Adult Protective Services. Coordinating a response on the national, state and local level requires coordination, which is in many what the Safe Banking for Seniors program seeks to provide.