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Protecting Elders from Financial Scams by Holding Big Banks Accountable

California Health Advocates supports Senate Bill 278 (Dodds) which will clarify the law and ensure that elderly victims of financial scams can hold banks accountable for assisting in the financial exploitation of older Californians.

Financial scams against elders are on the rise in California, and too often banks are turning a blind eye while scammers rob older Californians of their life savings. Often called the “crime of the 21st Century,” financial scams against elders are an epidemic, with estimates of annual economic losses of $3 billion dollars. Victims come from all socioeconomic backgrounds. This form of financial exploitation robs victims of their resources, dignity, and
quality of life.

As mandated reporters, banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions are uniquely positioned to detect when a customer might be the victim of a scam or other financial abuse – and take action to protect elders from the devastating loss of their life savings. Unfortunately, the language of California’s current financial elder abuse statute (Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.30) is unclear. As a result, recent court rulings are in conflict with
the law and some federal courts have set an impossible standard of proof required to hold banks accountable for assisting scammers. By adding a simple clarification to existing law – SB 278 will assure justice for the countless elderly victims of financial scams whose banks should have protected them.

Elder financial abuse is a serious problem in not just California, but the United States with seniors losing billions of dollars each year to fraud, scams, and financial exploitation. CHA strongly supports SB 278, as this bill, if passed, will provide a mechanism for banks to report suspected financial abuse of an elder, which can help prevent or stop further abuse.

Read our submitted letter of support for more details. Also see the Consumer Attorneys of California’s fact sheet sharing financial elder abuse stories.