State fighting elder financial abuse

The Department of Financial Regulation is cracking down on financial abuse of older Vermonters, Commissioner Michael Pieciak said Monday.

An estimated one in five Americans older than 65 falls victim to financial fraud, according to the Investor Production Trust. Collectively, about $2.9 billion is lost through financial fraud of older people every year.

According to a news release from DFR, because Vermont has an older population — a fifth of the state’s residents are over age 60 — the state is particularly at risk of financial abuse of elders.

Pieciak announced a program to increase awareness of and improve responses to suspected financial fraud targeting older Vermonters. He called elder financial abuse “a serious and growing problem.”

The effort beginning this fall will include training for financial professionals, including investment advisers and broker-dealers, on identifying red flags. The department intends to expand that to offer it for front-line staff at banks and credit unions.

The department is also establishing an elder abuse response team dedicated to investigating potential cases soon after they are reported and pushing forward with legal action as appropriate.

According to the news release, Vermont recently implemented a state regulation model that, among other things, requires investment professionals to report instances of suspected elder abuse.

DFR also plans to push for steeper criminal penalties for perpetrators of financial crimes against vulnerable Vermonters.

—Elizabeth Hewitt, Vermont Digger