The privacy laws in this country would seem to favor criminals as well as the good. Perhaps you have heard that comment, or said it yourself. Fraudsters can steal money because they have Power of Attorney and no-one is allowed to disclose the details about the transactions to authorities, right? Wrong. Peoples Bank is only too happy to report you if we even suspect you are financially abusing a senior or disabled adult.

Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults issued clarification about privacy and reporting as long ago as September 2013. It stated that the privacy provisions of the United States Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) “require or encourage” the reporting of suspected financial abuse of older adults “without complying with notice and opt-out requirements.”

Banks may observe signs of possible financial exploitation of adults and are encouraged by law (but required by humanity) to report their suspicion to the appropriate local, state, or federal agencies. Under this circumstance, by reporting their observation of possible elder financial abuse, the bank would not violate the law nor the spirit behind the privacy considerations of legislature. To be reported, the suspicions must be confined to the illegal or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets.

Here’s why we take this so seriously

Reports of wide-spread, hair-raising cases of elder abuse are on the rise. Back in 2011, testifying before the US Senate, Kay Brown, the director of Income Security from the Government Accountability Office reported:

In 2010, we identified hundreds of allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. At that time, we reviewed 20 of these cases and found that guardians had stolen or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, many of whom were older adults. – Source: US Senate Testimony: Incapacitated Adults: Improving Oversight of Federal Fiduciaries and Court-appointed Guardians (Sept. 22, 2011)

 

That was then. Now experts report that losses due to elder financial abuse is more like $36 billion each year, far more than the $2.9 billion previously thought! More than half of that, $17 billion, comes from “deceptive but technically legal tactics designed to specifically take advantage of older [ones].”