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Understanding the Senior Safe Act

As part of the Senior Safe Act, which went into effect on May 24, 2018, financial institutions and regulators will be allowed to report incidences of potential financial exploitation of senior citizens.

Those who are covered by this law include financial institutions, investment advisers, transfer agents, broker-dealers, and their properly trained employees. Any reports of suspected exploitation must be made in good faith and with reasonable care.

Financial Exploitation

According to the National Council on Aging, older Americans lose between $2.6 billion and $36.5 billion each year to financial abuse and fraud. It is difficult to ascertain accurate figures because much of the abuse goes unreported. Financial exploitation takes many forms, such as:

  • Family members, friends, or caregivers siphoning money from the senior’s financial accounts
  • Scams involving someone posing as a government official, financial professional, or something similar
  • Fraud involving home repairs or utilities
  • Scams by people posing as charity organization workers
  • Extortion

Senior Safe Act

Under the Senior Safe Act, financially oriented companies and entities, such as credit unions, banks, investment advisers, broker-dealers, insurance companies and agencies, are protected from being sued for reporting suspected fraud targeting senior citizens. To qualify for protection, though, these entities must properly train the employees to recognize warning signs and handle the potential victim’s information securely and appropriately.

More than 36,000 reports of suspected financial elder abuse were filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in 2020. This was a 49% increase since the law was enacted in 2018.

Detecting Financial Abuse

Since there are many types of financial abuse, there are many red flags to watch for, including:

  • ATM withdrawals at unusual times
  • Checks written to strangers or companies that the senior hasn’t made payments to before
  • Newly created financial documents that the senior doesn’t know about or understand
  • Fraudulent signatures on financial documents
  • Unusual or sudden changes in spending habits
  • Unpaid bills

Preventing Financial Abuse

Awareness of the types of financial abuse and the red flags that can indicate the abuse is the first step in prevention. Talking with your elderly loved one about the risks of financial abuse and assuring them that it’s not something to be ashamed of will help them feel more at ease when reporting suspicious activity.

If a family member or friend is managing a senior’s finances, it’s a good idea to have another family member or friend checking in on the senior’s accounts to provide a system of checks and balances.

Reporting Financial Abuse

Reporting financial abuse is vital to help protect the abused and prevent the same abuse from happening to others. To learn more about reporting financial elder abuse, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Our law firm is dedicated to keeping you informed of issues that affect seniors who may be experiencing declining health. We help you and your loved ones prepare for potential long-term medical expenses and the need to transition to in-home care, assisted living care, or nursing home care. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you plan for your financial future and protect your loved ones from financial abuse.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Albany office today at (518) 452-6979 and schedule a consultation.

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