PROTECT Week: Protect Older Americans from Financial Exploitation - Financial Regulation
PROTECT Week is a statewide awareness and public education campaign focused on Protecting Older Americans from Financial Exploitation. The campaign runs from June 10 through June 15 which is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. During PROTECT Week there will be several events around the state to bring resources and expand awareness to elder consumers and their loved ones.
June 11, 2019: Watch the press conference launching PROTECT Week with remarks from the Baltimore County Executive, the Attorney General of Maryland, Commissioner of Financial Regulation, AARP Maryland’s State Director, and the President of CCCSMD.
Commissioner Salazar's Elder Financial Abuse Op-Ed
Tony Salazar, Commissioner of Financial Regulation
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an average of 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. In Maryland, the Department of Aging estimates that 25.4% of Maryland’s projected population will be aged 60 or older by the year 2030. As our citizen’s age, the potential for them to become victims of financial fraud increases greatly.
That is why the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation is proud to participate in PROTECT Week (June 10-15), a statewide awareness and public education campaign focused on protecting older Americans from financial exploitation. PROTECT Week culminates on June 15th, which 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. The Hogan Administration and the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation, are acutely aware of the growing epidemic of elder financial exploitation, and how unfortunately, it often goes unreported and unresolved.
Financial exploitation is committed by persons both known and unknown to the victim. In fact, 1 in 20 older adults say they have suffered financial abuse at the hands of a family member. Many elderly consumers have often been victimized by caregivers, acquaintances, and care facilities. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates there are 3.5 million incidents of elder financial exploitation annually, resulting in Americans aged 70 to 79 losing $43,300, on average, when the suspect is unknown, and $50,000 when the suspect is known. Experts estimate that the amount of actual fraud could be as much as ten times higher than the $3 billion that is annually reported to authorities.
Financial exploitation can take many forms: outright theft, 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 passwords. There are also confidence scams involving wiring money to foreign countries and paying scammers with gift cards. Elderly citizens are also being coaxed into unnecessarily borrowing from their 401(k) or pensions.
We 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 your financial accounts and the questions you should ask when opening an account. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps in recognizing financial abuse, making informed decisions or getting help if financial abuse occurs. We also encourage elder consumers and their families to take advantage of the statewide events being held during PROTECT Week, including a telephone town hall on scams on June 14th hosted by AARP.
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 constant vigilance. Let’s 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. Finally, we encourage you to visit the PROTECT Week website for additional resources including how to recognize financial abuse and what you can do about it.