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May 16, 2012

New Md. Law Aims to Halt Financial Abuse of the Elderly (USA)

Financial institutions will be required to report suspicions of fraud against older Marylanders
By Eileen Ambrose, The Baltimore Sun
May 14, 2012

Maryland banks and credit unions are likely to be among the first to notice that an elderly customer is being financially exploited by a con artist or an unscrupulous relative.

So it makes sense that these institutions take part in an effort to protect older Marylanders from being ripped off. Thanks to a new state law, they will.
Starting in October, banks and credit unions here will be required to report suspected financial exploitation of Marylanders age 65 and up. They must convey their suspicions within 24 hours by phone to Adult Protective Services — part of the state's Department of Human Resources — or law enforcement and must follow up in writing. Financial institutions that fail to do so will face a penalty of as much as $5,000.

Financial institutions usually aren't keen on more regulation. But many are on board in this case, saying the mandate will raise awareness of a serious problem.

"The more people are aware that this is an issue, the better it is for most people," says Bob DeAlmeida, president of Hamilton Bank in Towson.

He adds, "I have a father who is 85 and, quite frankly, he has been taken before on some issues and it scares me all the time."
Some of the statistics about elder financial abuse are scary. Many other states already have such a reporting mandate, and it's about time Maryland joined them.
It's difficult to know precisely how widespread elder financial abuse is in Maryland because not all victims report the abuse — especially if the perpetrator is a family member or caregiver. Adult Protective Services in Maryland last year investigated 982 cases of financial exploitation, which accounted for about 15 percent of its investigations.
Elder financial exploitation is a national problem — and an expensive one.
The Investor Protection Trust found in a 2010 survey that one in every five Americans over the age of 65 had been financially swindled. A MetLife Mature Market Institute study last year found than older Americans lost $2.9 billion to elder financial abuse, a 12 percent increase in three years.

And the problem is still growing.

 Abridged
SOURCE:     The Baltimore Sun
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