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Is Your Bank Ready to Age With You?


After attending a 2011 U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing where my report on the cost of exploitation was quoted, I discussed the growing problem of financial exploitation with a banker. In minutes over a burger, we identified a way a family caregiver could watch over a loved one’s bank account without giving the caregiver access to make transactions. We implemented this account feature a few months later at Bank of American Fork. Many financial institutions have developed simple and effective solutions to fight exploitation. Exploitation isn’t the only issue financial institutions encounter — financial caregiving, dementia and accessibility are also areas of concern for customers and financial institutions.

Over the last year, AARP conducted several interviews with financial institutions to identify promising practices to fight exploitation. We are sharing those practices in a new report with the hope that other financial institutions will adopt them. Here are a few examples:


  • Problem: An investor suddenly can’t manage his finances, and his investment adviser suspects dementia. Because of privacy banking laws, the adviser is unable to discuss these concerns with family members.
  • Solution: Wells Fargo Advisors has a client emergency contact form so the financial adviser has permission to contact a designated third party if exploitation or dementia is suspected. Now Wells Fargo can reach out to family members or friends for help when diminished capacity becomes an issue for a customer.


  • Problem: A customer who is deaf in her left ear comes into a bank and becomes frustrated from repeatedly having to tell bank employees she can’t hear.
  • Solution: Barclays notes its customers’ accessibility needs in their file. For instance, for the customer who is deaf in her left ear, the teller knows to speak closely to the customer’s right ear. Barclays notes various other needs in the customer’s file such as “Needs a quiet place to meet” or “Needs more time to conduct transactions.”


  • Problem: Many banks are seeing an increase in scams and exploitation of their 50-plus customers.
  • Solution: The Oregon Bankers Association, in conjunction with the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Department of Justice and AARP, developed a training kit to prevent financial exploitation. The kit helps frontline bank employees identify possible cases of financial exploitation and raises their confidence in reporting suspected cases. Since the training began in 2006, bank reporting of abuse has increased by 287 percent.


More of these solutions are outlined in two new reports, Snapshots: Banks Empowering Customers and Fighting Exploitation and Preventing Exploitation: Five Banks Leading the Fight. The practices included in this report can serve as a guide for financial institutions wishing to expand their services, augment employee training, use new technology or increase their community involvement efforts.

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