A new law signed by President Trump on May 24 is designed in part to strengthen protections for older Americans against financial exploitation and abuse. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act includes a provision, previously proposed as the Senior Safe Act, that extends immunity from lawsuits to financial institutions and insurance companies when reporting suspected cases of elder financial exploitation.
Why is such an immunity important?
Employees at these institutions are often the first line of defense against financial exploitation and are instrumental in identifying and reporting suspected cases. However, institutions have often been reluctant to report these cases due to concerns about violating customer privacy regulations. A survey last year found that 56 percent of investment advisors who had seen or suspected financial exploitation failed to report it.
This new law will provide financial institutions and insurance companies protection from lawsuits connected to disclosure of customer information so long as institutions have (a) reported the suspected incident to proper authorities in good faith and with reasonable care and (b) provided training to their employees.
The law illuminates the crucial issue of financial exploitation. Notably, it also syncs perfectly with a trailblazing AARP initiative.
The law outlines specific requirements for the employee trainings. Among the basic requirements are that training must
- teach employees how to identify and report suspected exploitation,
- address the need to protect the customer’s privacy,
- be tailored to the employee’s job responsibilities, and
- be provided as soon as possible to all current employees, and within the first year of an employee being hired.
In addition, the law requires institutions to keep records of when their employees receive training so they can present them to regulatory agencies as requested.
BankSafe is Ready to Help
Just as the legislation has become law, a groundbreaking AARP initiative, BankSafe, is being piloted to help financial institutions prevent exploitation of older Americans. One of BankSafe’s key components is a state-of-the-art training free platform to educate all bank, credit union, and investment-firm employees to prevent exploitation of older Americans. The training program is online, interactive, and allows users to proceed at their own pace. AARP developed the training in cooperation with over 200 employees from banks, credit unions, investment services companies, and trade associations.
The training focuses on two types of employees who see transactions or speak to customers over the phone or in person:
- frontline employees (call center employees, loan officers, account representatives, credit card representatives, ACH/wire specialists and tellers) and
- fraud investigators and e-operations managers.
- The training meets the requirements outlined in the new law and, in fact, goes even further. It provides actual techniques used by seasoned employees to stop exploitation in its tracks before the money leaves the account. The training also offers policy and system recommendations suggested by regulators.
BankSafe recently launched a pilot of the training program. Currently participating in the pilot phase are institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont. During the pilot phase, financial institutions will also participate in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the training and identify any needed modifications prior to a national rollout in 2019.
In the fight against financial exploitation of older Americans, trained employees are essential for protecting customers and their assets. A full 85 percent of older Americans want the employees at their banks and other financial service providers to be trained to prevent exploitation. Additionally, trained employees can help reduce the estimated $1 billion per year banks lose to financial exploitation.
BankSafe works with the financial industry to help its members voluntarily adopt policies, practices, and training that work for everyone. Its launch syncs well with the new legislation.