On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) announces that it is working with state-chartered banks, credit unions and state government agencies to detect and prevent instances of elder financial abuse and bring greater awareness to the problem.\n\nWhile thought to be highly underreported, the National Council on Aging estimates that as many as five million elders in the U.S. are robbed or defrauded of up to $36.5 billion annually. Individuals over the age of 60 make up the largest growing segment of the population. One of the most devastating and unrecognized forms of abuse is financial abuse. Perpetrators of elder financial abuse are often family members, friends, caregivers or the common predatory scammer. The result is usually the same. The victim is robbed of his or her income, credit, savings or investments.\n\nThe DOB, in conjunction with state banking and credit union associations, is modernizing a training program and promoting resources for banks and credit union personnel that will raise greater awareness to the risk factors and signs of elder financial abuse and exploitation. Additionally, the DOB is recommending that each financial institution have a point person for reporting suspected financial exploitation to the state\u2019s Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275. Consumer-focused educational materials will also be developed and made available in elder-focused communities and programs and for outreach by the Office of Consumer Affairs and agency staff. The DOB has also launched a\u00a0new web page\u00a0dedicated to the topic that provides helpful information on the signs of elder financial abuse and how to report it.\n\n\u201cElders need to be comfortable in seeking out a qualified financial or banking professional for advice in making informed decisions about their finances and we hope our educational efforts will instill this,\u201d said\u00a0Office of Consumer Affairs Undersecretary John Chapman.\u00a0\u201cThrough training bank and credit union personnel and heightening awareness among elders, we\u2019re combating this exploitation on two fronts.\u201d\n\n\u201cBank or credit union personnel are in a frontline position to see the signs or evidence of elder financial abuse,\u201d said\u00a0Division of Banks Commissioner Terence McGinnis.\u00a0\u201cWe strongly anticipate that through training our banks\u2019 and credit unions\u2019 employees they will be active participants in detecting and reporting financial exploitation of their customers.\u201d\n\nThe DOB will also undertake a review of advertising and marketing materials and contracts of reverse mortgage lenders looking for any deceptive language or illegal practices. State law requires all prospective reverse mortgage borrowers to complete an approved counseling program before obtaining a loan. Borrowers whose income and assets are below certain thresholds are required to obtain the counseling in person.\n\nTo report elder financial abuse or suspected exploitation, contact the state\u2019s Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-922-2275 and your local police.\n\nSigns of Elder Financial Abuse Risk\n\nUnusual Account Activity \u2013 Including large withdrawals and increased ATM usage.\n\tAdding a co-signor to an elder\u2019s account.\n\tAttempts by a third party to access an elder\u2019s account to make withdrawals.\n\tRequests made to elder for forms to be notarized.\n\tClosing of Certificates of Deposit without regard to penalties.\n\tThe appearance of forged or suspicious signatures.\n\tAttempts to wire transfer large sums of money.\n\tSudden changes made to wills.\n\tFamily, friends or caregivers taking unanticipated interest in an elder\u2019s finances.\n\tExplanations by elder of solicitations that sound too good to be true.\n\tIncreased confusion about banking and financial matters.\nThe Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state\u2019s lemon laws, data breach reporting, and home improvement contractor program, and the state\u2019s Do Not Call Registry. Follow the office at its\u00a0blog,\u00a0on\u00a0Facebook, and on Twitter\u00a0@Mass Consumer.