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Two older women walking down the street

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday that a coordinated federal effort has been put in place to address the devastating and increasing problem of elder financial abuse.

At a White House forum on elder abuse and financial exploitation, Sebelius says a $5.5 million grant under the Affordable Care Act will be used to create a federal elder justice coordination team, including officials from the Justice Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). That team will examine previously “fragmented” elder abuse initiatives across the federal government and determine what actions are needed to enhance protection efforts.

She says officials will also study state protective service systems around country “that got results” in addressing swindles and fraud perpetrated against elders, and use those best practices to educate caregivers and others to recognize and report these cases.

“We’ve never had a coordinated federal response to elder abuse,” Sebelius says. “This is the right thing to do.”

Such training appears to be paying off among companies that launched these efforts in recent years. At Wells Fargo, a team trained to spot suspected financial abuse reports about 60 new cases each month, a company official announced.

The CFPB also announced a new initiative Thursday that will help older adults understand designations of financial advisers to raise awareness about legitimate, and fraudulent, designations.

The forum came just one day before World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Friday.

Photo credit: Kamshots at flickr.com

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