U.S. Consumer Bureau Seeks Input on Elder Financial Abuse

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today announced it is seeking public comments as part of an inquiry into financial exploitation of senior citizens.

“Older Americans have lost billions of dollars to the silent crime of financial exploitation,” the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, said in an e-mailed statement. “Our older adult population is growing every year, which makes it even more critical that we study this issue.”

The bureau hired Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, a former Minnesota attorney general, to head its Office of Older Americans in October. Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, said their experiences suggest elder financial abuse is a serious issue.

“Get us together and we can tell you horrifying stories about these crimes -– people looted of their pension benefits, or talked into investing much of their life savings in endless varieties of fraudulent schemes,” Cordray said at a White House event to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The victims often end up poor and “in a nursing home at the expense of American taxpayers.”

Americans age 60 and older lost at least $2.9 billion to financial exploitation in 2010, up 12 percent from 2008, the bureau said, citing a study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Victims are most often women, and abuse comes most frequently at the hands of family members, the study found.

“In order to help older Americans, we must also reach out to the millions of Americans who are positioned to be the guardians and protectors of their aging parents,” Cordray said in at the White House.

Seeking Resources

The bureau said in the statement it is seeking information on what resources are available to help with decisions on choosing financial advisers, and on evaluating their credentials. More broadly, it wants information on financial literacy efforts aimed at older Americans.

It is also seeking information on “unfair, abusive or deceptive” practices targeted at Americans age 62 and over, including veterans.

“We are also concerned about military pension buyout schemes,” Cordray said at the White House. “Military retirees are offered lump-sum cash payments in return for surrendering their rights to their pension payouts. These schemes are usually very bad deals for the retirees.”

Public comments are due by Aug. 13.

“We will use the information we collect to inform policy making processes,” Cordray said. “We want to know what is working and what is not, so that we can fix what is not working.”

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