Senior Living Communities Urged to Protect Residents from Financial Exploitation

Older adults are at high risk of financial abuse and scams. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a government agency that helps consumers take more control over their economic lives, older Americans lose close to $3 billion to financial exploitation each year! The CFPB even calls this threat “the crime of the 21st century.”

Con artists have a wide variety of schemes that take advantage of seniors, and when an older adult has been victimized, the crooks often target the same person again. The perpetrator might even be a family member or other trusted person who is handling or has access to the senior’s money. Seniors who are living with cognitive impairment are at particular risk; even mild cognitive impairment makes it more likely that a person will be victimized.

The CFPB’s Office for Older Americans reports that about half of nursing facility residents and 40 percent of assisted living residents are living with memory loss. According to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “Financial exploitation and scams can put seniors in danger of losing their housing and nursing care by robbing them of the money to pay for that assistance.” Recognizing the role nursing homes and assisted living facilities can play in protecting vulnerable residents, the CFPB recently released a guide to help staff recognize and report financial mistreatment. The guide, “Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation” [link to: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201406_cfpb_guide_protecting-residents-from-financial-exploitation.pdf ] , is for managers and staff who are in a key position to protect the people in their care from theft and fraud.

The guide suggests that senior living organizations follow three R’s:

Recognizing: Facilities are advised to train staff to be aware of red flags, such as unpaid facility bills, disappearance of possessions, frequent checks made out to “cash,” a resident who is distraught after a family member or friend visits, or seeing a previously uninvolved person claiming authority to manage a resident’s finances without proper documentation. Other warning signs include a mailbox full of sweepstakes offers and scams involving free lunches and charity appeals.

Recording: Facility managers should urge staff to talk about concerns and report suspicions. Direct care staff, housekeeping and maintenance staff may be the “front line” in this effort, as they are often most familiar with individual residents and might be present during interactions with visitors. Keep records of these observations; this can assist law enforcement and other first responders.

Reporting: There are specific federal requirements for nursing homes to report financial crimes, including exploitation or theft, directly to law enforcement. Facility administrators should be aware of their state’s reporting requirements.

Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website (www.consumerfinance.gov) to download the guidebook [optional link to: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201406_cfpb_guide_protecting-residents-from-financial-exploitation.pdf ] and to find more resources promoting financial protection for older people. [optional link: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/older-americans]

Source: AgeWise reporting on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau materials.