The CFPB has issued a new elder financial abuse report, “Report and Recommendations: Fighting Elder Financial Exploitation through Community Networks,” and a related resource guide, “A Resource Guide for Elder Financial Exploitation Prevention and Response Networks.”

While the CFPB found that hundreds of counties around the country have developed strong, collaborative elder financial exploitation prevention and response networks, it also found that networks do not exist in most communities with only 25 percent of all U.S. counties currently having a network for addressing elder abuse issues.  In developing the report, the CFPB attended network meetings and interviewed representatives from 23 elder protection networks and various experts in the field.  In the report, the CFPB highlights “what such networks do, how they work, how they can work even better, and how they can be established.”  The report found that these collaborative networks improve the prevention, detection, reporting of, and response to elder financial exploitation.

In the report, the CFPB makes recommendations to existing networks and key stakeholders for how to develop and improve their communities’ efforts to combat elder financial abuse.  These recommendations include:

  • Professionals and volunteers working with or serving older adults, such as bankers, lawyers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and social workers, should create networks in communities where they currently do not exist, especially in communities with a large number of older people.  Networks should seek participation of law enforcement as network members.
  • Because financial institutions “are uniquely positioned to detect that an elder account holder has been targeted or victimized and to take action,” networks should seek to include financial institutions as members and financial institutions should seek to join and participate in local networks.
  • Networks in areas with older populations of diverse linguistic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds should seek to engage stakeholders that can serve these populations and deliver appropriate educational and case review services.

The resource guide covers the steps involved in starting and operating a network, such as the role of coordinators, finding network members, funding, and activities.  The guide also describes available CFPB resources.  In the guide, the CFPB again highlights the role of financial institutions as network participants and includes the American Bankers Association’s website as a source of contact information for local, regional and state entities to help networks seeking to partner with banks.

Earlier this year, the CFPB issued an advisory and a report with recommendations for banks and credit unions on how to prevent, recognize, report, and respond to financial exploitation of older Americans.  The advisory and report were the focus of a webinar conducted by Ballard attorneys.

As we have previously observed, elder financial abuse prevention can be viewed to fall within a financial institution’s general obligation to limit unauthorized use of customer accounts as well as its general privacy and data security responsibilities.  As a result, a financial institution that fails to implement a robust elder financial abuse prevention program could be targeted by the CFPB for engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices.  In addition, a bank or credit union subject to CFPB supervision should expect CFPB examiners to look at its program for preventing elder financial abuse.  Many states have laws that address elder financial abuse.