Helping Banks Stop the Financial Exploitation of Older Americans

As a teenager, I was friends with an amazing woman named Kaye. She was a nurse during World War II, and after the war, she and her husband — a baron of Poland — worked with Radio Free Europe to help bring freedom to people trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

During the time that I knew her, Kaye was the victim of several instances of financial exploitation. She had poor eyesight, which made it easier for people to take advantage of her. She worked hard her whole life to help bring freedom to others, and now she was being deprived of her own freedom.

Unfortunately, Kaye is not alone. One of every two older Americans has been financially exploited or knows someone who has been a victim. Thousands of people age 50-plus are financially exploited every day. Each victim loses an average of more than $120,000.

Exploitation affects financial institutions, too — banks lose more than $1 billion each year because of exploitation. As the number of older Americans continues to increase, exploitation will likely get worse. This problem has the potential to wipe out the retirement savings of millions of Americans and tarnish their trust in their financial institutions.

To assist customers and financial institutions in preventing financial exploitation, AARP conducted a nationwide survey of individuals age 50 and older who have an account at a credit union or bank and have the responsibility of making financial decisions. The survey found that 4 out of 5 respondents prefer to establish their accounts at a financial institution that proactively fights exploitation, and at least a quarter of them are willing to pay for prevention services.

In addition:

  • 85 percent of respondents said they want their bank to train employees to detect and prevent exploitation.
  • 87 percent want direct notification of unusual activity.
  • 83 percent want extra monitoring to prevent unauthorized withdrawals.

 

With this understanding of consumers’ perspectives, AARP convened members of the financial services industry and aging organizations, including front-line employees and AARP members, at a roundtable in November 2015. Attendees discussed the banking needs of older adults, including successful practices and strategies to prevent exploitation. These discussions also identified strategies to enhance the security of older customers, safeguard assets and protect banks as well as their customers.

AARP is leading an initiative to protect older Americans by educating financial institutions to fight exploitation. The AARP BankSafe initiative incorporates the lessons learned and trends identified through our research to help banks safeguard customers’ assets. It also provides the necessary tools and training to help financial institutions protect consumers of all ages.

Learn more about AARP’s research and the insights that helped lead to the creation of AARP’s BankSafe initiative by reading the report.