Project SAFE: Stop Adult Financial Exploitation - Financial Regulation
Take advantage of our brochure What Account is Right for You?, which provides information on the implications of adding someone to financial accounts and questions to ask when opening an account. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps to making informed decisions or getting help if financial abuse occurs.
Commissioner Salazar's Elder Financial Abuse Op-Ed
Tony Salazar, Commissioner of Financial Regulation
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an international observation designated by the United Nations to bring attention to the exploitation and abuse of the elderly in all its forms. As Maryland’s Commissioner of Financial Regulation, I am acutely aware of the growing epidemic of elder financial exploitation, and that the problem, as rampant as it is, often goes unreported and unresolved.
Financial exploitation can take many forms: outright theft, fraud, insurance scams, misleading investments, unaffordable mortgage products, and unscrupulous home improvement contractors. As technology has changed and financial products have evolved, the crimes have become more sophisticated. Email phishing scams can make unsuspecting individuals supply criminals with their financial account username and password. There are confidence scams involving wiring money to far-off countries. Elder consumers are being coaxed into unnecessarily borrowing from their 401(k) or pensions.
As a population, elder consumers are sitting on a vast amount of collective wealth: it has been estimated that by 2061, heirs will receive $36 trillion in inheritances. This increases the risk of financial exploitation, and not just by unknown individuals. In fact, 1 in 20 older adults say they have suffered financial abuse at the hands of a family member. Many elder consumers have been victimized by caregivers, acquaintances, and care facilities. While reported fraud totals about $3 billion a year, many experts say the amount of actual fraud is ten times that amount.
I strongly encourage elder consumers (and those who love them) to be aware of the dangers and to educate themselves on this issue. Take advantage of our brochure What Account is Right for You?, which provides information on the implications of adding someone to financial accounts and questions to ask when opening an account. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps to making informed decisions or getting help if financial abuse occurs.
We may set aside one day a year to draw attention to this matter, but elder financial exploitation is an ongoing problem that continues to evolve; it needs our sustained attention. Let us make every day a day to be aware of and fight against elder abuse. Together, we can protect Maryland’s older consumers and help them safeguard their hard-earned finances.
To report suspected cases of financial exploitation, contact Adult Protective Services at 800-917-7383. You may also contact the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation at 888-784-0136 if you have a complaint regarding a Maryland state-chartered financial institution or mortgage company.