Partners in the Fight Against Financial
By Pamela B. Smith, Director, County's Aging & Independence Services
Joey wanted to cash a large check from his
grandmother’s account. A bank employee called his
grandmother, Joyce, who said her husband had recently
died and that her grandson was helping out. Further review
of Joyce’s account revealed expenses for electronics, auto
accessories and adult entertainment. Joyce’s money was not being used for
The bank employee refused to cash the check in Joey’s hand. Instead a call was made to Adult Protective Services. Joey eventually admitted to an APS worker that he misspent his grandmother’s money. An out-of-state daughter was contacted, and she helped Joyce safeguard her assets and put needed care in place. Unfortunately, Joyce’s situation is not unique.
APS agencies statewide tracked the loss of assets from elder and dependent adult financial abuse for just one day. The assets included real estate, vehicles, bank accounts and more. The total: $20 million. Just one day.
Financial institutions can be key gatekeepers in the battle against financial abuse. Many older adults have long relationships with one bank or credit union. They know many tellers by name. Those tellers often know when there’s an unusual change in the banking pattern of a regular customer.
If Joyce’s bank had not looked into the situation further and called APS, her money could have disappeared rapidly. In a desperate time, Joyce had trusted her grandson to help her. He let her down. Joyce’s bank did not.
Many financial institutions throughout the county have been partners with APS in the fight against financial abuse of elders and dependent adults. Beginning Jan.1, all banks and credit unions in the state will be mandated to join this growing battle. In California, more than 600,000 incidents of financial abuse occur each year. Sadly, for every situation that is reported, an estimated 25 other similar incidents of financial abuse go unreported.
Legislators felt it was time to bring all banks and financial institutions into this effort. There has been a reluctance in the banking industry to mandate employees to report suspicion of financial abuse. The concern was over upsetting customers with questions regarding their finances. Understandably, privacy is an important issue for financial institutions.
So APS agencies in the state are working to educate customers about this new law. Financial institutions are not seeking to pry into their business; the goal is to protect customers’ assets. Account information will be guarded as before, with sensitive information only being released to investigative agencies, such as APS or law enforcement, or by court order. Joyce certainly benefited from that extra attention.
HELP STOP ELDER ABUSE -ELDER ABUSE REPORT LINE 1-800-510-2020
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