A new Maryland elder abuse protection law is set to take effect this October, making Maryland one of about 20 states to have enhanced financial elder abuse protections. The law requires any bank or credit union with customers in Maryland to report suspected instances of financial elder abuse. If the financial institution has a customer 65 or older and it suspects abusive or fraudulent activity with their account, it will soon have a duty to report such activity to state officials.
Financial institutions can contact a Maryland Adult Protective Services hotline or a representative of Maryland law enforcement by phone, and must follow up any report with a written one. Any financial institution that fails to make such reports faces a penalty of up to $5000 for each offense.
Though such financial reporting laws are currently only present in a minority of states, they are becoming more prevalent as legislatures grapple with the problem of financial elder abuse. It’s estimated that Americans aged 50 and over own 70 percent of the wealth in the United States. About one out of every five people over the age of 65 has been the victim of some sort of financial con. A study released by Met Life last year found that elderly Americans had lost $2.9 billion to financial scams and other forms of financial abuse.
Though the Maryland law will not prevent all forms of financial elder abuse, it will likely lead to the discovery of some instances of abuse that would otherwise have gone unreported. Victims of financial abuse often feel embarrassed by what has happened and are unlikely to report it to officials.