When Wells Fargo Advisors held a conference to discuss elder financial abuse, it seemed at times like nearly every one of the 200 people in attendance was personally acquainted with a family member or friend who has been victimized.  But perhaps that’s not surprising, given the scope of the crime and the rate at which it’s growing.

Already a significant social issue, losses related to financial abuse and fraud committed against older Americans have increased 12% in just four years* and continue to rise as our population ages, expanding the pool of potential victims.  Sadly, some 75% of documented elder financial abuse is committed by trusted family members and caregivers, rather than by strangers*.  Often that betrayal, coupled with the financial loss, has a devastating impact from which victims find it difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

Bank, brokerage firms and other financial services firms can play a vital role as a first line of defense against this crime – a position they hold by virtue of their responsibilities as safe depositories and trusted sources of financial advice. 

Organizations such as the Financial Services Roundtable, representing the largest U.S. banks, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) have stepped up their efforts to raise awareness and engage member organizations to combat the crime.

Individual banks and brokerage firms have put in place robust tools, training and policies to address employees who violate their responsibilities to older customers.  However, privacy laws and other restrictions can inhibit their ability to act quickly when they suspect that a customer is a victim of elder financial abuse, so dialog with regulators is taking on added importance.

Challenges notwithstanding, the financial services industry must work harder to identify new opportunities to expand dialog and collaborate with agencies and organizations such as the U.S. Administration on Aging, the National Adult Protective Services Association, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and OASIS, all of which are central to the fight against elder abuse. 

Wells Fargo remains committed to supporting their efforts and working with them, with our peers, our regulators and our legislators to combat the threat to the financial safety of our elders and ensure that all older Americans enjoy the financial security they worked so hard to achieve.

Danny Ludeman is CEO of Wells Fargo Advisors


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