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How Bank Employees Can Protect Seniors from Financial Exploitation

Bank employees can now be the front line of defense for older Americans, who might be the victims of elder financial exploitation. You frequently hear tragic stories about older people getting tricked into withdrawing their life savings and handing their money over to con artists. Sometimes, an observant person at the bank can intercede and prevent these crimes.

New legislation protects the workers from getting sued for trying to help. The new rules provide training on how bank employees can protect seniors from financial exploitation. The workers learn how to recognize and report suspected financial abuse of seniors, while preserving the individual’s privacy. Originally titled as the Senior Safe Act, the law bears the title “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.”

Types of Financial Exploitation

Older Americans lose millions of dollars a year to fraudulent scams. Some of the most common schemes include:

  • A senior gets an email that says he inherited money from an overseas relative, and he needs to send money to an account in another country. The rip-off artist will explain they need to make sure the senior’s bank can receive a transfer for the inheritance. In reality, there is no inheritance or long-lost relative. Once the senior wires the money, the thief breaks off contact and keeps the money.
  • Someone calls an older adult, claiming to be with the IRS. The caller threatens the only way the senior can avoid getting arrested is to send money that day.
  • Other telephone scams include telling the older person he needs to wire money to another country, because his grandchild got arrested or got hurt and is in the hospital.
  • A friend, relative, caregiver, or another person close to the older adult convinces, tricks, or bullies him to taking money out of his account, making the fraudster a joint owner of the account, or transferring the asset to the thief.
  • Someone posing as a home repairman tells the aging homeowner he needs work done for the safety of his house. The repairman’s quote of a few hundred dollars escalates into tens of thousands, as the crook claims to find more and more problems, or he repeats work unnecessarily.
  • A shady charity or pseudo-religious organization sweet-talks the senior into handing over his retirement savings.

Whatever the con game, the senior loses hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some elderly people are left with next to nothing to live on for their remaining years.

Many of these crimes involve going to the bank and withdrawing large sums of money or wiring money from the bank to an overseas account. You would think bank employees would see red flags when an 85-year-old lady comes into the branch and wants to withdraw $20,000 or wire it to another country.

Bank employees seldom report their suspicions or take action on them, because they were afraid of violating regulations that protect customer privacy. Over half of financial advisors admitted they do not report it when they see financial exploitation or suspect it is happening. Hopefully, with the new law and the training the rules now require, the number of seniors who suffer financial abuse will decrease.


AARP. “In Sync: Senior Safe Act, BankSafe Fight Financial Exploitation through Training.” (accessed October 31, 2019)