World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) happens each year on June 15th. It was officially recognized in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly. It represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations. 

I call upon governments and all concerned actors to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of elder abuse. Let us work together to optimize living conditions for older persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contribution to our world.”
— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Experts from financial, aging fields discuss practices institutions can adopt to prevent elder exploitation

June 22, 2018
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

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by Erin Alessandroni

Elder advocates, financial experts, and policymakers joined for a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day conference in June to discuss the prevalence and consequences of elder exploitation in our communities and beyond and to address the steps needed to combat this growing problem.

At the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where the group convened, keynote speaker Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner kicked off the meeting by sharing a personal experience in which his father-in-law nearly fell victim to a “grandparent scam,” a scam which often involves a caller posing as a grandchild in distress and asking for money. Using this as an opening, he discussed his office’s recent initiatives focused on addressing this problem, including a plan to form a new unit dedicated to prosecuting predators of the elderly.

But to prevent crimes like these from occurring in the first place, financial institutions need to get involved.“We’ll never get ahead of professional scammers in boiler rooms making these calls, and we’ll never be able to straighten out dysfunction in families,” Joe Snyder, chair of the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force which hosted the event, said. Mr. Snyder is also the former head of Older Adult Protective Services at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

To highlight the “epidemic” of elder abuse in the Philadelphia area, Assistant District Attorney Noel Ann DeSantis and Certified Fraud Examiner for Ally Bank Linda Mill took the group through common scams that trick local elders and discussed the preventative role that banks could have played in each situation.

The main lesson was that financial exploitation can happen anywhere, to anyone. “The majority of perpetrators of financial exploitation are women,” Ms. Mill said, “and most are a family member using power of attorney.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin Weissmann added that elderly victims come from “all walks of life,” and urged her contemporaries to keep raising awareness across the board.

As a result, Ms. Desantis and Ms. Mill emphasized, early reporting is critical, for saving not only an elder’s life savings, but potentially their lives.

“Always call the police and file a report, no matter how small the amount of the theft,” Ms. DeSantis said. “That creates a case number for us, which is sent to SeniorLAW Center and CARIE [the Center for Advocacy for Rights and Interests of the Elderly].”

Meanwhile, on the federal end, Rashage Green, Deputy Chief Counsel for Senator Bob Casey, a ranking member on the Special Committee on Aging, discussed what Congress is doing to combat this widespread issue.

“It’s outrageous that people who worked so hard all of their lives to build their nest eggs are having them taken away,” Ms. Green said.  

Ms. Green introduced the Senior$afe Act, recently signed into law, which encourages financial institutions to disclose suspected exploitation of seniors when they see it and protects them from being sued when making these reports. Such policies would encourage financial institutions to take action.

In addition, the American Bankers Association Foundation recently launched a campaign called “Safe Banking for Seniors,” which now has more than 1,000 banks involved. Executive Director Corey Carlisle introduced a guide which lists all of the different state statutes on what information you can and cannot disclose and other best practices for bankers in difficult ethical situations involving the elderly.  

Expert panelists, including representatives from Ardent Credit Union, Delaware Valley Financial Security Officers Group, Bank of New York Mellon, and Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, also spoke of their diverse experiences with elder financial exploitation crimes to educate the room.

As a guide, the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Task Force released a list of Best Practices that financial institutions can follow. Key suggestions include mandating training programs for all employees and developing data analytics to identify customers at high risk of financial exploitation.

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event is hosted every year by this Task Force. View further coverage of this year’s event at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia at The Philadelphia Inquirer and KYW.

Video Contents

Introduction

Chris O’Connell, FOX29 Anchor and Reporter ..........................................................................00:00

Keynote Speakers

Larry Krasner, Philadelphia District Attorney ............................................................................04:37

Robin Wiessmann, Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities .........................................14:00

Rashage Green, Deputy Chief Counsel for Senator Bob Casey ...................................................24:12

Panel Discussion 1

Real Cases: Pursuit of Elder Justice ............................................................................................32:32

Noel Ann Desantis, Assistant District Attorney Philadelphia

Linda Mill, Director of New Account Services, Ally Bank

Awards

Media Award, Erin Arvedlund ................................................................................................1:12:00

Financial Service Industry Award, Mike Cullen .......................................................................1:16:00

Executive Director of ABA Foundation, Corey Carlisle ...........................................................1:18:43

Panel Discussion 2

Best Practices for Financial Institutions ..................................................................................1:25:54

Linda Johnson, Compliance Officer & Fraud Investigator, Ardent Credit Union

Mike Cullen, President of Delaware Valley Financial Security Officers Group

John Hickey, Senior Investigator with Bank of New York Mellon

William Mahoney, Partner with Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young

Video

Dr. Jason Karlawish, Penn Memory Center Co-Director .........................................................2:33:14

Closing Remarks

Chris O’Connell, FOX29 Anchor and Reporter .......................................................................2:38:00


Previous WEAAD events:

WEEAD 2017

June 14, 2017
Ralston House