WASHINGTON—A new solution is being offered to credit unions to help them battle the growing problem of elder financial abuse.
ElderIDPro from Vero, a division of the Ontario-Calif.-based CU Direct, allows credit unions to take effective action simply on suspicion of elder financial abuse, the company says. What is important about that, said Jim McCabe, SVP identity theft solutions at Vero, is that it is often difficult to get authorities to take real action on elder abuse cases without proof a crime is happening.
“There’s almost been a missing link in the fight against elder financial abuse,” said McCabe during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference. “The credit union, or the member, suspects something is happening, but what can they do or where do they turn armed only with suspicion?”
McCabe explained that in talking with law enforcement agencies over the years, he learned they typically won’t act on suspicion.
“They want proof. They are stretched thin with their other cases,” said McCabe.
CU Staff Busy
McCabe acknowledged that credit union staff are stretched thin, as well, which makes it hard to give the cases of suspected elder abuse the attention they need.
With ElderIDPro, the credit union presents Vero with its case of suspected of elder financial abuse and the Vero team investigates.
“Our staff has a great deal of expertise in working on these cases,” said McCabe. “They average more than 25 years’ experience in credit union transaction law. They are private investigators. They know exactly what to look for, where to go, and how to pull back the layers to find the evidence. Then, when they find evidence of elder abuse, they bring it forward to the credit union and to the member who can then decide what to do with the information.”
McCabe added that the Vero team is closely connected with law enforcement agencies across the U.S. and can help the credit union present the case to the correct state agency or local authority.
“We can help the credit union and member take a case as far as it needs to go,” said McCabe.
Elder financial abuse is being called the crime of the 21st century. According to a MetLife study, about $3 billion is lost annually by older Americans to the problem and the losses went up during the financial crisis.
The biggest problem, said McCabe is that most cases go unreported due to the victim being afraid to upset the person who is committing the crime, often a family member or caregiver the elder depends on. Statistics show that about 25% of elder financial abuse cases are reported to law enforcement or local departments of Adult Protective Services.
McCabe noted that 26 states have laws that require financial institutions to monitor accounts for elder financial abuse.
“Credit unions are under pressure with these state laws to perform, but they often don’t have the resources, especially the small credit unions,” said McCabe.
NCUA has clarified to credit unions that they can report suspected cases of financial elder abuse to local law enforcement or an agency of their state's Adult Protective Services without worrying about violating the elder member’s privacy under Gramm-Leach-Bliley—a 1998 bank law that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act.