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How Financial Institutions Can Protect Seniors from Abuse

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A group of eight organizations, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Reserve, issued guidance to financial institutions on how to protect older Americans from financial abuse.

According to the guidance notice, such crimes are the most common among abuse of the elderly, and very few are reported. Criminals target senior citizens for a variety of reasons — physical limitations, cognitive decline, isolation, loss of a partner or dear friend. The notice says that those in the financial world are in a good position to detect signs of fraud with the accounts of their senior citizen clients — and are not only encouraged, but in certain instances required, to report suspected financial abuse to the authorities.

Exceptions to the Law

With that in mind, the notice focused on this requirement, specifically how it applies to the privacy rules of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). Under those rules, financial institutions must inform consumers of what information the institutions gather and how it is shared, and consumers have the ability to opt-out of having their personal, nonpublic information shared with a third party.

Should a financial institution need to share that information, the consumer must receive notice prior to any action.

However, when it comes to protecting senior citizens, there are exceptions. The point is to more efficiently combat financial exploitation among that population, which is why consumer advocates issued the guidance to banks, financial advisers, debt collectors and other financial bodies.

The good news is that certain professionals are required to look out for and report suspicious activity among seniors, like unusual transactions, changes in banking patterns, submissive relationships with caregivers or the emergence of controlling family members.

The bad news: There’s a lot of contradictory information out there that can confuse seniors, and there’s no shortage of people willing to take advantage of them.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your financial statements each month (or even daily, online) for signs of fraud — for your own accounts, and those belonging to loved ones who may need assistance with their finances. In addition, you should closely monitor your credit scores for signs of changes (which you can do using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card, as your score updates monthly) and check your free credit reports for signs of fraudulent financial activity.

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