Beginning this October, Maryland banks and credit unions will play a much larger role in the state’s efforts to prevent financial elder abuse. A new law that takes effect this October will require financial institutions with elderly customers in the state to report suspected instances of abuse each and every time they occur.
If a Maryland bank or credit union suspects that a customer age 65 or older has been victimized by financial abuse, they must report their suspicions to state officials within 24 hours. They must then submit a written summary detailing the suspected abuse. If a bank or credit union fails to make either the initial phone call or a follow-up report, it can be fined as much as $5,000 for each failure.
Financial abuse is probably the most under-reported form of elder abuse. Many elderly people who suffer financial abuse do so at the hands of family members or caregivers. When these people have access to the elderly person’s financial information, the elderly person may not be aware of the abuses taking place at all. Even if they are aware, they may be very reluctant to report it. Other forms of financial abuse come at the hands of con artists or identity thieves.
Experts estimate that people age 65 and older lost about $2.9 billion to financial elder abuse in 2010 alone. That number represents a 12 percent increase over the previous three years, and experts expect this number will continue to rise.
As more and more states come to grips with the full extent of financial elder abuse, more are taking legislative steps similar to Maryland’s. Currently, about 20 states have similar reporting laws.