U.S. regulators call on banks to help spot abuse of older people

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:00pm EDT

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators on Tuesday said banks may be positioned to identify older people who have fallen prey to financial scams and clarified that firms can report suspected abuse.

Officials say older people, who often have retirement savings and may experience memory loss, may be taken advantage of by financial advisors, caregivers and others.

In general, privacy rules say U.S. financial institutions must alert consumers before providing nonpublic information about them to a third party, and consumers must be allowed to opt out of this data-sharing.

These rules do not apply when banks suspect financial abuse of older Americans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve and other regulatory agencies clarified.

"Employees of financial institutions may be able to spot irregular transactions, account activity or behavior that signals financial abuse," the agencies said in a statement.

"They can play a key role in preventing and detecting elder financial exploitation by reporting suspicious activities to the proper authorities."

The consumer bureau in particular has focused on cracking down on scams aimed at elderly people, and it has an office dedicated to protecting older Americans from abuse.

Regulators said on Tuesday that studies show that only a small fraction of financial abuse involving older people is ever reported. Banks may report suspected incidents to local, state or federal authorities, the agencies said.

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