Protecting Vulnerable Adults Financially

Article excerpt

Financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable adults is a growing phenomenon. It is a multibillion-dollar business for those who exploit or scam our most vulnerable citizens. The human cost is immeasurable. What better way to combat the problem than an alliance between adult protective service programs and financial institutions across the country?

The impetus for the BITS Toolkit started with one case in Philadelphia, involving the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and the Wachovia Corporation. This led to a pilot program involving 50 branch offices in the Wachovia network with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, leading to the formation of the BITS Toolkit.

BITS, which used to stand for Banking Industry Technology Secretariat, is a non-profit consortium made up of a hundred of the largest financial institutions in the United States. Member institutions of BITS, along with the National Adult Protective Services Association and the Administration on Aging, made up the members of the work group.

The toolkit was introduced in a national media event in Washington on February 16, 2006. It provides a road map for a fraud prevention program for financial institutions in partnership with adult protection service programs around the country. The financial center employees from the pilot program embraced the program because they had observed some situations that caused them concern, but they did not understand what else they could do and had fear of violating a customer's privacy. The program proved that the privacy of the consumer can still be protected. At the same time, we all can make sure that consumers are not being exploited, which will lead to the loss of assets as well as independence and dignity. Here are some examples:

* A niece and nephew bring their elderly aunt to the bank weekly so they can withdraw money and gamble at a race track. The bank's intervention led to their arrest.

* A longtime customer stops coming to the bank, but a young woman was coming to cash checks every day. The bank made a referral to Adult Protection Services (APS), which found the consumer bed-ridden and afraid to confront the perpetrator because she feared that she would be left alone all day while her roommate went to work. …

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