A new Maryland law will take effect later this year and require state financial institutions to make reports whenever they suspect an elderly customer’s account has been exploited.
The new law requires Maryland banks and credit unions to contact state officials within 24 hours of learning of any suspected fraud, financial con, or other source of financial abuse to a customer aged 65 or older. Following the phone report, the financial institution must follow-up the call with a written report. Any financial institution that fails to make a report on time faces fines of up to $5,000 per failure.
Experts say that financial elder abuse accounted for a loss of about $2.9 billion in 2010, a 12 percent increase over three years. The number of Americans over the age of 65 who have been victimized by financial fraud is estimated to be about 20 percent.
Con artists are more likely to target elderly people because they are often less able to avoid being victimized by scams, and are less likely to report them because they often have a strong feeling of guilt or shame. They are also more likely to have more money, as people 50 and older hold about 70 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Maryland had previously enacted a law that allowed banks and financial institutions to voluntarily report financial abuse without being penalized for violating customer confidentiality requirements. The new law imposes a mandatory requirement and takes effect this October.