The growing issue of financial exploitation among seniors has recently gone under the microscope at both a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing Wednesday afternoon and in comments from Investor Advocate Rick Fleming of the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.
Meanwhile, several advocates for seniors met with the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to combat financial exploitation of vulnerable seniors.
One of them, Judith Shaw — securities administrator of Maine and president-elect of the North American Securities Administrators Association — spoke at length about an approach being used in Maine, called Senior$afe, that has been showing promising results.
“We must identify those who are best positioned to identify red flags early on and encourage reporting and referrals to appropriate local, county, state, and federal agencies, including law enforcement,” Shaw said during her testimony.
Senior$afe, which partners with Maine’s financial institutions to increase identification and reporting of suspected cases of elder financial exploitation, aims to do just that.
The program has three components — training, a consumer brochure, and quick response cards for front-line staffers and managers of banks and credit unions. Senior$afe also establishes a new reporting channel for suspected cases of elder financial exploitation in addition to the traditional report to Maine’s Adult Protective Services.
And Shaw said the program has been effective already, in less than a year of existence. The first training sessions occurred in February 2014, and to date, 210 bank and credit union employees have been trained.
In less than a year, Shaw said they’ve received a total of 20 referrals resulting from the program — 17 calls were referrals from financial institutions and three additional referrals came from nonfinancial institution individuals who knew of the program.
The referrals have resulted in further referral of nine cases to Adult Protective Services — one case being referred to both the Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission, and three cases being referred to law enforcement. In two cases, the financial institutions were provided information to assist in connecting the customer with Legal Services for the Elderly.
Several committee members expressed an interest in the Senior$afe program and its potential to be implemented elsewhere.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., asked if Shaw thought Senior$afe could be a model for other states.
“I do strongly believe it could be a model for other states,” Shaw replied. She added that already Senior$afe has supplied its program materials to NASAA for revision and co-branding so that it can be made available to all 67 of the group’s members — all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Canadian provinces and territories, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Casey also asked Shaw how difficult it was to pull together the mulitdisciplinary entities to achieve Senior$afe. Shaw responded that it wasn’t difficult at all.
“I think people realize the time has come,” she said, adding that Senior$afe was not funded by a grant but that all entities agreed to commit their own resources.
“We are all responsible for stopping elder abuse,” she said. “It is not hard to get players to the table.”
A ‘Woefully Ill-Equipped’ Justice System
Also present at the hearing was Page Ulrey, senior deputy prosecuting attorney for the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, Washington.