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Press Release

June 15, 2015

Contact: Matt Anderson, 212-709-1691

GOVERNOR CUOMO ISSUES CONSUMER TIPS TO HELP PROTECT AGAINST FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF THE ELDERLY

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Governor advises older Americans, their caregivers and service providers on steps to guard against financial scams

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today urged older Americans, their caregivers and service providers in New York to guard against various forms of elder financial exploitation. Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – a global day dedicated to elevating the visibility of elder abuse and neglect. To view the consumer tips issued by the Governor, please visit here.

“This administration will not tolerate those who seek to prey on older New Yorkers for financial gain,” Governor Cuomo said. “Learning the facts and how to spot red flags will help safeguard against this particularly repugnant form of exploitation and I encourage older residents and their loved ones to stay informed and help us crack down on elder financial exploitation.”

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Supertintendent of Financial Services, said, “Older Americans are unfortunately an especially vulnerable population for financial exploitation. We remain committed to helping root out these scams and protecting older Americans and their families.”

Elder financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an elderly adult’s funds, property, or resources by another individual. Recent studies have found that elder financial exploitation is the most common form of abuse facing the elderly, causing significant financial losses and suffering for elderly individuals and their families. A 2011 MetLife study estimated that financial exploitation costs seniors living in the U.S. at least $2.9 billion every year. Further, a 2010 survey by the Investor Protection Trust estimated that 1 in 5 Americans over age 65 has been victimized by financial fraud, a startling statistic underlying the pervasiveness and urgency of the problem.

Today’s consumer tips address how to prevent three primary categories of financial exploitation schemes that target seniors:

1)    Scams, wherein a fake offer, alert, or emergency is used to manipulate an elderly consumer into giving money;
2)    Abuse by trusted persons, such as caregivers, friends, or others in positions of trust with the elder;
3)    Financial products or services that may be harmful and unsuitable for the elderly, such as certain investments or annuities.

The tips also address signs of diminished financial capacity in elderly consumers and warning signs of financial abuse to improve detection and prevention.

If you suspect that an elderly person may be a victim of financial exploitation, you should contact the authorities, including Adult Protective Services.  Adult Protective Services units are administered by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and are located in every county in the state. They are authorized to investigate suspected financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and intervene as appropriate.

To see a list of APS units that are in all counties in the state of New York, please visit http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/localdss.asp.

The action today by the Governor is part of an ongoing effort to protect elderly New Yorkers from financial exploitation. In January of 2013, Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky adopted New York Insurance Regulation 199, which protects elderly consumers from misleading and fraudulent senior-specific certifications and professional designations in the solicitation, sale or advice made in connection with a life insurance policy or annuity contract. In July of 2013, Superintendent Lawsky adopted New York Insurance Regulation 187, which sets forth suitability standards and procedures for agents and brokers when making recommendations for annuity contracts to consumers.

Most recently, in February 2015, the Department of Financial Services issued regulatory guidance to financial institutions on identifying and stopping elder financial abuse. At the same time, they also sent a survey to a number of banks and credit unions to gather information on the policies those institutions have in place to protect consumers from elder financial exploitation. 

To report suspected elder financial exploitation, individuals and financial institutions should contact their local APS unit or call the statewide hotline at 1-800-342-3009 (press option 6).

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