Partnering to Protect Seniors
By Christopher W. Pinkham
The challenge began at the Maine Legislature over a year ago, when a state Senator found a number of constituents had stories of elderly relatives being victims of financial scams. His legislative proposal was a wake-up call to numerous parties (banking included) who have now banded together to help right these wrongs and protect our seniors from future losses. He identified a dormant effort from the late 1990s that needed to be resurrected, remodeled for the 21st century and then invigorated by committed professionals on the front lines in our bank branches.
Elder financial fraud is a painful crime that all too often goes “under the radar screen.” The perpetrators can be relatives or caregivers; most are often known to the victims. Losses are devastating, as life savings or money needed for medicine or fuel can disappear in the instant it takes money to be transferred. Our approach has been to partner with all organizations knowledgeable in the area of our elder citizens. First, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services rewrote the train-the-trainer manuals and delivered that training to 100-plus bankers statewide. The trainers are now armed with manuals for their front-line teller staff so that we can make elder financial fraud a key component of every bank’s training modules. Additionally, we found AARP – Maine, the Maine Alzheimer’s Association and Maine TRIAD invaluable as partners who had real life experiences and resources to share and help build our training programs.
We are also indebted to the Bureau of Financial Institutions and Superintendent Lloyd LaFountain for facilitating the entire process. We could have gone down a road of mandated legislation and additional regulations, but instead we are building a successful partnership to better protect our senior citizens.
Christopher W. Pinkham is president of the Maine Association of Community Banks.