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Galvin Asks Banks to Do More to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

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Massachusetts regulators are asking banks and credit unions to take more action to protect seniors from financial abuse.

The office of Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin sent out letters to 190 banking institutions in the state recently urging them to train employees “to identify signs of suspicious behavior or unusual banking activity involving senior citizens.”

As part of this outreach, Galvin described an instance in which a senior bank client “was persuaded to obtain bank checks totaling $60,000” after getting a series of phone calls in which she was told these checks “were essential to her collecting sweepstakes prize money.”

In these case, he explained, the fraud was successfully prevented thanks to a joint effort that included the senior client’s bank, FBI and state regulators.

In his letter, Galvin wrote: “Unfortunately, this story may be all too familiar to you, as senior citizens are often targeted, because they are more likely to have a ‘nest egg’ of money from years of saving and investing that scam artists want to steal.”

In addition to requesting that financial institutions train staff, the Massachusetts regulator asked that they establish a protocol “for evaluating unusual patterns of banking activity” and how staff will share this information with affected clients. “It is also valuable for employees [to] know who to notify when these signs are identified, such as law enforcement and local elder affairs officers,” Galvin said.

The regulator adds that financial fraud “against such a vulnerable group of citizens are difficult to combat, because victims of these types of fraud are often embarrased or too scared to report it.”