Towson Lawyer examines Financial Exploitation of Elders

Elder Financial Abuse and Exploitation

In October 2000, the Attorney General launched Project SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation), a public-private partnership which provides for the training of personnel in financial institutions to detect and report cases of financial exploitation. (1) The Maryland legislature also passed a law more than a decade ago that allowed financial institutions to voluntarily report elder financial abuse without violating bank privacy laws.

Maryland banks and credit unions are likely to be among the first to notice that an elderly customer is being financially exploited by a con artist or an unscrupulous relative. So it would make sense that these institutions would take part in an effort to protect older Marylanders from being ripped off. Thanks to a new state law, they will.  

The new law makes reporting elder financial abuse mandatory.  Hopefully it will prompt financial institutions to pay closer attention to the problem. See this link to read the House Bill that became the new law-

Starting in October of 2012, banks and credit unions that conduct business in Maryland will be required to report suspected financial exploitation of Marylanders age 65 and up. They must convey their suspicions within 24 hours by telephone to Adult Protective Services — part of the State’s Department of Human Resources — or law enforcement and must follow up in writing. Financial institutions that fail to do so will face a penalty of as much as $5,000.

Elder financial exploitation is not only a state problem, but a national problem as well.  It is also an expensive problem that is continues to grow. Older adults are often more vulnerable to this type of fraud because isolated circumstances where there is no one looking out for them, or in poor health and less likely to scrutinize financial transactions as they once did.

What is Financial Exploitation?

Exploitation means any action which involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult’s funds, property, or person. This is mostly thought of as financial exploitation and encompasses a broad range of conduct. Financial exploitation may involve unusual banking activity, suspicious signatures on checks, changes to legal documents, missing assets or funds, excessive fees for rent or caregiver services, and person-to-person, mail, or telephone fraud scams. Exploitation covers situations where an elder is coerced into giving consent or is unable to give consent due to a state of mental or physical incapacity. (2)

Strangers perpetrated slightly more than half of the reported cases of elder financial abuse and exploitation, while family, friends and neighbors were the culprits about one-third of the time. But banking officials and aging experts in Maryland say perpetrators tend to be relatives and caregivers.