Legislative initiatives to combat elder financial abuse and exploitation have steadily increased in recent years at both the state and federal level.  A number of these newly passed or proposed laws, including the Senior Safe Act, contain a training component for financial institution employees.  Training on this important issue not only allows a firm to avail itself of certain immunity provisions under applicable law, but, according to a recent study, leads to a significant decline in the exploitation of the institution’s senior customers.

The study, conducted by the AARP and Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology, examined the effectiveness of an elder abuse training program implemented at 82 participating financial institutions across eleven states.  According to the published report, training of the financial institutions’ employees resulted in significant financial savings both to the customers and the firm and in higher reporting by employees of potential exploitation.  In particular, the report found that:

  • Trained employees collectively prevented almost $1 million from leaving their institutions at the hands of an exploiter;

  • The amount of money saved from exploitation by trained employees was sixteen times higher than the amount saved by non-trained employees;

  • Trained employees reported suspected exploitation at a rate four times that of non-trained employees;

  • Trained employees saved money more often when a family member was the exploiter;

  • Confidence in recognizing, preventing and reporting exploitation was four times higher for trained employees than for non-trained employees; and

  • Trained employees demonstrated a 133% increase in knowledge of financial exploitation.

In the wake of an aging population and increased elder exploitation, training of customer-facing employees on the recognition, prevention, and reporting of suspected financial abuse is plainly best practice for financial institutions under the emerging legal landscape.  As this study makes clear, it is also imperative to combating the risk of loss both to the customer and the firm.  

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