Elder financial exploitation threatens the financial security of millions of older Americans annually. In response to this crisis, hundreds of communities across the United States have created collaborative networks to protect their older residents. To increase protections for older Americans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, through its Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans ("the Bureau"), works with elder justice professionals and other community stakeholders to form or strengthen community efforts to increase prevention and improve response to elder financial exploitation.
As part of this effort, since 2016, the Bureau has convened local and state organizations in several states to create new or strengthen existing Elder Fraud Prevention and Response Networks (EFPRNs). This initiative builds on the Bureau's 2016 Report and Recommendations:
Fighting Elder Financial Exploitation through Community Networks.
The Bureau defines a network as:
A sustained, and largely voluntary, collaborative effort or partnership that works to prevent, detect, and/or respond to elder financial exploitation.
The Bureau's 2016 report highlights how elder fraud prevention and response networks help to protect against elder financial exploitation by, among other things, improving coordination and collaboration among a community's public and private agencies and organizations.
This report describes the Bureau-initiated convenings in Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Montana, and Oregon, which have sparked the creation of new networks or have enhanced existing elder fraud prevention and response networks. The lessons learned from these pilot convenings can help other communities develop networks that improve coordination and collaboration between responders and service providers to protect older people from financial harm.
Studies estimate that $36.5 billion per year is lost annually due to elder financial exploitation. Older people who are defrauded of their assets usually have little or no opportunity to recover their losses. Those targeted may lose the ability to live independently and experience a decline in health.
No single community entity is responsible for effectively preventing and responding to elder financial exploitation, nor can one entity do so. The cases tend to be very complex and can be difficult to investigate, resolve, and/or prosecute. Adult Protective Services (APS), law enforcement (LE), and other community stakeholders need to work together to prevent and respond to elder abuse and financial exploitation. To respond to the problem, communities nationwide have developed or are developing collaborative Elder Fraud Prevention and Response Networks (EFPRNs).
EFPRNs vary in their reach, scope, and focus. Some common examples of network activities include:
In its 2016 Community Networks Report, the Bureau recommended that professionals working with, or serving, older adults create networks where they do not currently exist, especially in communities with large numbers of older people. While hundreds of networks exist nationwide, opportunities remain to create new networks and strengthen existing ones.
Following the August 2016 release of its report, the Bureau launched an initiative to expand the presence of networks. This initiative focused on convening public and private community organizations to replicate and expand upon existing network models. The report also mapped the location of networks by county.
Since 2016, the Bureau has facilitated convenings in several states, including Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Montana, and Oregon. The Bureau selected these sites through a process that included considering information about a county, region, or state's need and interest in developing a network, and the density of older residents in that area. The assessment also included identifying one or more community leaders with the interest and capacity to plan and execute the convening and carry the momentum forward following the event. Building a network requires committed leadership with adequate time and resources dedicated to network activities.
The most critical element of planning a convening is to identify and engage key stakeholders.
Successful convenings engage a broad spectrum of participants, including representatives from APS, law enforcement, prosecutors, financial institutions and services, legal services, academic institutions, tribal governments, state and federal financial institution regulators, and other entities and individuals that serve older people. The planning time needed for a convening is generally 60-90 days.
The Bureau's three-hour pilot convening model consisted of:
Each convening was similar in implementation but had unique attributes that reflected local and institutional culture. Some convenings engaged a large number of law enforcement and financial institutions and others were led by APS or legal services representatives. In some convenings, the local U.S. Attorney's Office Elder Justice Coordinator (EJC) participated in the convening and provided leadership. Some of the participating EJCs were newly designated and indicated that the convening was a helpful launching point for their engagement and integration into the work being done at the community level.
For example, some networks decided to:
Many successes grew from the community's focus. The following are examples of several actions that communities have undertaken after meeting with community counterparts and stakeholders:
The Bureau has gleaned helpful information from facilitating convenings to create or enhance elder fraud prevention and response networks. For communities considering enhancing stakeholder collaboration and engaging in activities to help prevent and respond to elder financial exploitation, the Bureau recommends:
Networks celebrate success. Hosting an awards ceremony to honor founders and members in conjunction with a community event or other opportunity may support continued engagement and raise awareness of elder financial exploitation and the network's efforts to build collaboration among stakeholders.
EFPRNs increase interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation to prevent and respond to elder financial exploitation. Communities and regions without networks have an opportunity to develop a new network by starting with promising practices that have been utilized by others. Existing networks can draw on the experience of other networks to reenergize and refocus their efforts to protect older community members from financial exploitation.