Opinion

New Jersey's Banking Industry: At Forefront of Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse

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John McWeeney Jr., CEO and president of the New Jersey Bankers Association
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Older Americans are increasingly becoming targets for fraud and financial exploitation. Persons over age 50 control more than 70 pecent of the nation’s wealth. Many seniors do not realize the value of their assets, particularly homes that have appreciated markedly.

Fraudsters target older Americans because they may be experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility or other disabilities that require them to rely on others for help. Seniors who live in isolation and have chronic conditions have become even bigger targets.

Banks are often the front line of defense in protecting their elderly customers from financial abuse, so bankers are trained to look for signs that may indicate abuse.

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Banks are well positioned to detect, prevent and report elder financial abuse. They continuously enhance their capacity to spot elder financial abuse through ongoing training and enhanced fraud detection technologies. Frontline staff members observe and engage customers on a daily basis, enabling them to serve as one of the first lines of defense. Banks maintain a wide variety of internal protocols and procedures to protect customers from this abuse. The types of warning signs bankers look for include unusual account activity, unpaid bills or eviction notices, suspicious signatures, new “best friends,” and new powers of attorney or altered wills.

Everyone can use these warning signs to help protect relatives, friends and neighbors. The best way to protect your loved one is to watch out for red flags and help them take simple steps to safeguard their personal information.

NJBankers (New Jersey Bankers Association) is doing its part to help by partnering with Senior Crimestoppers (http://www.seniorcrimestoppers.org/ ) whose mission is to keep nursing home residents free from theft, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and other crimes and actions. The banking industry funds the entire program. 

No one who has worked a lifetime for their assets should have to be subjected to financial exploitation. If you suspect elder financial abuse, we encourage you to speak with local police and adult protective services in the appropriate town to report the issue.

 

John McWeeney Jr. is CEO and president of the New Jersey Bankers Association, the Cranford-based organization that is an advocate for the state's banking industry. Its membership consists of 98 banking institutions of all banking charters that are headquartered or have branches in New Jersey. 

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