MONEY

Senior Safe Act Lets Banks Call the Cops

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Congress took a big step last year to protect senior’s financial interests. The Senior$afe Act gives immunity to bank employees who call the authorities if they think a senior is being scammed.

It's not quite that simple, but that's the end result. Too often when seniors are being scammed, they go to the bank to ask about transferring or withdrawing large sums of money and wiring it to others. In scams, that can mean fake grandchildren or fake IRS employees who have scared us. It's estimated that seniors lose $3 billion per year to financial exploitation.

Until now, the bank was unable to step in, even if it knew something was wrong, being told that privacy was more important than mere suspicions. Now certain bank employees, specially trained to identify questionable activities, will have immunity, or freedom from a lawsuit.

And it's not just banks. Other types of financial institutions also will be given this ability to help. Our investment advisers, brokers, insurance agents, credit unions and others also can train and designate certain employees to act. In return, the institution itself also gets immunity for the disclosure of private information to law enforcement.

That's not to say it's now required that banks and other institutions call the police if they suspect a senior is being financially exploited. Authors of the bill hope that by providing immunity it will encourage financial institutions to step up after they're trained.

A few states already have this protection against financial elder abuse, but now it's federal, and all states will need to follow the law. If enough financial institutions sign up for the program, it could go a long way toward helping seniors to avoid being victims.

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