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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Nursing home payment missing? Could be fraud

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Long-term care (LTC) facilities, financial institutions, and anyone involved with keeping tabs on home care providers could play a role in preventing, detecting and reporting elder financial abuse.

Witnesses talked about strategies for fighting financial abuse Thursday at a hearing organized by the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The witnesses did not talk about long-term care insurance (LTCI), and they mentioned annuities and life insurance only in passing.

But several did talk about LTC providers.

Hubert “Skip” Humphrey, III, an assistant director in the Office of Older Americans at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), testified that “bad actors” could include family caregivers or paid caregivers as well as financial advisors, fiduciaries, home repair contractors or scam artists.

“Development of strategies to deal with the myriad of ‘bad actors’ is essential,” Humphrey said, according to a written version of his remarks posted on the committee website.

One step the Office for Older Americans is taking is to develop guides for “lay fiduciaries,” to help family members and others handle older people’s money in a prudent fashion and spot possible signs of financial exploitation, Humphrey said.

The office also is producing a guide aimed at LTC facility operators.

The office is hoping the facility operators will identify possible cases of financial exploitation and do something about them, Humphrey said.

When older adults who live in LTC facilities are the victims of financial abuse, “the first sign may be that their bills for their residences aren’t getting paid and they are threatened with eviction,” Humphrey said. “These settings include senior housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities.”

Many national organizations are offering to help the office distribute the lay fiduciary and LTC facility operator guides, Humphrey said.

Humphrey reported that financial institutions have been asking the office whether they can share personal account holder information when they are reporting possible cases of elder financial abuse.

The office is working with other CFPB offices to inform financial institutions that federal law does let them report suspected abuse to law enforcement agencies, Humphrey said.

Another witness, Paul Smocer, who spoke for the Financial Services Roundtable (FSR), said FSR member companies want federal agencies to clarify whether financial institutions can provide special screening for older customers. 

Financial institutions already have the technology to do that, Smocer said.

“Many financial institutions are concerned, however, that segregating their customer population for this purpose could be interpreted to place them in violation of existing age discrimination laws and, therefore, put the institution at risk for potential fines or regulatory actions,” Smocer said.

If age-based screening is illegal, it would be helpful if federal agencies could get Congress to make that kind of screening legal, Smocer said.

Financial institutions would also like the authority to impose a protective hold on a suspicious transaction, or at least put a hold on a transaction until the institution could notify the local adult protective services agency, Smocer said.

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