New Federal Law Protects Elders from Financial Abuse

New Law Clarification Gives Added Protections to SeniorsFt. Lauderdale, FL- Seniors are vulnerable to many different abuses from physical and mental abuse to financial abuse at the hands of caretakers in their home and in long term care facilities. Financial abuse is a particularly rife and a new federal law aims to end the financial exploitation of elders by caretakers and unscrupulous business owners.

Seniors are often taken advantage off financially by family members, nursing home employees, and unethical businesses that prey on the elderly. Detecting this abuse can be especially difficult and often it is bank employees that notice unusual or out of the ordinary activity on an elderly person’s bank account, but privacy rules have their hands tied when they suspect and person is being exploited financially.

But the feds have taken steps to protect elders from financial exploitation by clarifying privacy rules outlined in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Until now, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 appeared to place an individual’s right to privacy over the prevention of fraud, according to NBC News.

The privacy rules made it easier for scam artists to prey on the elderly and rob them of thousands of dollars through carefully crafted schemes and fraudulent investment opportunities. Family members and other caretakers sometimes exploit their elderly loved ones by making large withdrawals often wiping out their entire life savings.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act prohibits banks from disclosing any of your financial information to a third party unless given express permission, so the law has been somewhat murky for bank employees who notice unusual activity on an elderly person’s bank account.

Now with the clarification of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, bank or credit union employees who notice large withdrawals will be allowed to provide financial information to law enforcement agencies that are investigation allegations of financial abuse.

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said “reporting suspected elder financial abuse to the appropriate authorities is typically the right thing to do and generally will not violate the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.”

The eight agencies defined financial abuse as the “illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets.” They said that although financial exploitation of elders is a rampant problem it is rarely reported.

“Older adults are attractive targets because they may have significant assets or equity in their homes,” the statement from the agency reads. “They may be especially vulnerable due to isolation, cognitive decline, physical disability, health problems, and/or the recent loss of a partner, family member, or friend. A financial institution’s familiarity with older adults it encounters may enable it to spot irregular transactions, account activity, or behavior. Prompt reporting of suspected financial exploitation to adult protective services, law enforcement, and/or long-term care ombudsmen can trigger appropriate intervention, prevention of financial losses, and other remedies.”

Financial and physical abuse of the elderly is a problem that is poised to grow as the population ages. Seniors, those aged 60 or older, make up approximately 40 percent of the population according to 2009 data from the Census Bureau and each one of these seniors are especially vulnerable to financial exploitation. The clarification of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act will help stop some of these seniors from being robbed of their savings.