CFPB Issues Guidance on Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults

Credit union staff may be the most connected and observant advocates many elder consumers have to protect them against abuse.

On Sept. 24, 2013, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), along with other federal regulatory agencies, released Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults.

The Interagency Guidance clarifies that reporting suspected financial abuse of older adults to appropriate local agencies does not generally violate the privacy provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) or its implementing regulations. In fact, specific privacy provisions of the GLBA permit the sharing of information related to possible financial abuse of older adults.

  • A financial institution may disclose nonpublic personal information to comply with federal, state, or local laws, rules, and other applicable legal requirements, such as state laws that require reporting by financial institutions of suspected abuse (15 U.S.C. 6802(e)(8) and implementing regulations at ___.15(a)(7)(i)).

Both Oregon and Washington state statutes have provisions that make credit unions permissive reporters. This means credit unions may report to Departments of Health and Human Services or a law enforcement agency when there is a reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult is being financially exploited. In addition, both states’ statutes provide immunity for persons making reports in good faith.

  • ORS 124.075 – Anyone participating in good faith in the making of a report of elder abuse and who has reasonable grounds for making the report shall have immunity from any civil liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed with respect to the making or content of such report. Any such participant shall have the same immunity with respect to participating in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report.
  • RCW 74.34.050 – A person participating in good faith in making a report under this chapter or testifying about alleged abuse, neglect, abandonment, financial exploitation, or self-neglect of a vulnerable adult in a judicial or administrative proceeding under this chapter is immune from liability resulting from the report or testimony. The making of permissive reports as allowed in this chapter does not create any duty to report and no civil liability shall attach for any failure to make a permissive report as allowed under this chapter.

The Interagency Guidance also provides information on possible red flags that might be signs of abuse.

  •  Erratic or unusual banking transactions, or changes in banking patterns:
    • Frequent large withdrawals, including daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM;
    • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity;
    • Uncharacteristic nonpayment for services, which may indicate a loss of funds or access to funds;
    • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the older adult;
    • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money; or
    • Closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties.
  • Interactions with older adults or caregivers:
    • A caregiver or other individual shows excessive interest in the older adult’s finances or assets, does not allow the older adult to speak for himself, or is reluctant to leave the older adult’s side during conversations;
    • The older adult shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker;
    • The financial institution is unable to speak directly with the older adult, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her;
    • A new caretaker, relative, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the older adult without proper documentation;
    • The older adult moves away from existing relationships and toward new associations with other “friends” or strangers;
    • The older adult’s financial management changes suddenly, such as through a change of power of attorney to a different family member or a new individual; or
    • The older adult lacks knowledge about his or her financial status, or shows a sudden reluctance to discuss financial matters.

Credit unions in both states play a vital role in identifying potential financial exploitation of our vulnerable adult members. You should not have to worry about violating privacy laws for doing the right thing.

As always, make sure you are following the policies and procedures of your credit union when it comes to making a report regarding suspected financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.


Questions? Contact the Compliance Hotline: 1.800.546.4465,

Posted in Compliance News.