Chen said the Federal Reserve Bank there hosted two discussion events of their own. Participating seniors learned what services are being offered by their local area banks. Quarterly newsletters are released about these services and products. The center’s work is available at its website at http://www.centeronelderabuse.org.
In like fashion, Aery said the coalition recruits ambassadors to teach seniors about financial abuse and exploitation issues and to go to Sacramento, the state’s capital, to lobby on their behalf. The ambassadors are recruited in Folsom in Sacramento County in California.
“[These seniors are visible] advocates for [all] elder adults in their community,” she said. “[They are] valuable partners [and model] citizens [in our initiative].”
One of the most critical pieces of legislation watched by the coalition is the California Homes and Jobs Act (SB 391), a popular bill designed to provide jobs, financial investment and safe and affordable apartments and single-family homes for state residents in need, including families, seniors, veterans, the disabled and the homeless.
As of February 2014, with 31 co-authors, 600-plus sponsoring organizations and 400-plus individual sponsors, the bill lacks three votes in the state legislature to achieve passage into law.
Rangel, Bank of the West’s senior executive, said her bank provides a financial services roundtable of BITS, a non-acronym of an organization also known as the Financial Services Roundtable’s Technology Task Force, which represents an association of the nation’s 100 top financial services with interests in technology.
Bank officers provide services in financial exploitation, at-risk adult training curriculum and education, fraud detection, identity theft and secure retirement and a working group on these issues.
“[We look at and address] challenges and impediments,” she said of her bank. “[We provide] group training for advocates and education for seniors. BITS [serves by providing the] at-risk adult training curriculum.”
Rangel said that the bank contacts other banks and tries to avoid embarrassment for its senior customers with respect to financial abuse and exploitation. She said bank officers check credit reports to protect older customers against identity theft.
“[We make sure our senior customers] stay active and engaged with others,” she said. “[We ensure that they] establish [a] budget and keep money management.
“Isolation is a great danger. [It is important that our senior customers] protect [their personal and financial] identity. [We caution them not to] give away [their] Social Security numbers. [We try to] take away [the] stigma [of their victimhood for abuse and exploitation].”
Rangel said that Bank of the West sponsors “Be Aware” workshops. The bank started the program in 2007 to comply with California laws requiring banks to create and host customer education workshops.
“[We] partnered with nonprofits,” she said. “[We] let the [bank] branches [customize their educational programs]. [We brought in community] resources, law enforcement agencies and [the] FBI [in to] talk about scams. [We had participants] share [their] experiences.”
Rangel added that the bank took part in a governmental program, especially with the different counties and other states to enable industrial shredders to dispose of documents containing sensitive data about senior customers.
As an example, she said, one of the bank branches in Omaha, Nebraska sponsored an event program titled “Be Aware” Seniors. The program was started and run by a legal aid society in Nebraska, she said. The Attorney General in Nebraska provided a free shredding service.
Rangel said the bank “[carried out much of the] heavy lifting” to inform seniors about financial abuse and exploitation on their website. The nonprofit Elder Financial Protection Network’s (EFPN) work can be viewed at http://www.bewiseonline.org and http://www.elderfinancialprotection.org/.
She said the development of the website was “labor intensive [and took] a lot of time to manage in 2009”. The intent, Rangel said, was to reach more people about financial abuse and exploitation.
“[Our bank was responsible for] education and outreach [with a] broad dissemination [of content to our] target audience,” Rangel said. “[In our materials, we] defined financial elder abuse [with an] actionable message [from] trusted sources. [We formed] partnerships [with a variety of public and private sponsors].”
Event participants were advised not to let caregivers isolate seniors and urged them to make surprise visits of their homes.
The bank participated in and supported the San Francisco District Attorney’s campaign, she added. The campaign was a citywide multilingual business advertisement effort on elder financial abuse. She said the bank made sure that its officers generated “linguistically and culturally appropriate community outreach and press events [and materials].”
Rangel said the challenges of the bank’s age-friendly banking initiatives are “reporting out of their benefits, licensing of financial professionals serving elders, meeting the need for additional education and lobbying support for a national reporting statute.”
She explained that it is the duty of the executor of a will and the power of attorney to exercise the authority to authorize a protective hold on a customer’s finances and property and to grant permission based on age-based fraud monitoring.
“[We need to ask basic questions like:] are we violating other laws by monetary fraud?” Rangel said. “[We need to address the] hold harmless [clauses and instances of] suspected fraud.”
She explained that the bank approaches the financial institution’s trusted advisor on behalf of its customers. Bank officers take into consideration the turnaround time for reporting and exercising authority.
The bank performs internal training on SARS, also known as “suspicious activity reports” and trains families. Its officers check for fraud and the speed with which it is committed. During banking events, the officers field questions in the audience about the training and fraud monitoring programs. Many banks participate in the Elder Financial Protection Network, a “turnkey solution” meant to address the financial abuse and exploitation questions that has “received a great deal of support,” she said.
“[Seniors are at a] vulnerable stage [in their lives] and [have] given so much to society,” Rangel said. “[We believe it is worth the effort to] galvanize people to care about this.”
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Last updated: March 2014