Northwest Credit Unions Support Older Members Through Education, Information, and Resources


Early credit unions were organized for the purpose of promoting savings and providing a source of credit to members. Their main function has now evolved to serve the needs of members but also to promote financial literacy within the communities they serve – a service that ultimately helps members achieve financial goals and strengthen local communities.

In honor of Older Americans month, Northwest credit unions are sharing the programs and activities they’re offering to support the financial education and protection of those valued members.

“Credit unions do a great job building relationships with their members so they are able to identify when there might be a potential issue,” said Northwest Credit Union Association Director of Regulatory Affairs and Risk Management, Katie Clark. “Unfortunately, credit unions cannot identify issues that they cannot see, so member education becomes a key component of helping older Americans know the signs of various scams and elder abuse issues so that they can take appropriate action.”

At Rivermark Community Credit Union, a variety of financial education and awareness initiatives were created to support older members, including an internal training program designed to help staff identify and educate older members. The Oregon-based credit union also offers members financial education and resources that cover all financial life stages through BALANCE, an online portal where members can access information and instruction on a variety of topics, including debt and budgeting, credit reports, student loans, homeownership, renting, and BalanceTrack financial education modules.

In addition, a Financial Fitness Fair is scheduled for June, where members can speak with finance experts, including an AARP representative.

“It is integral to our mission as a credit union to serve and have concern for all the community, and helping identify and prevent elder financial abuse is something we strive to do on a daily basis,” Rivermark Credit Union Community Development Specialist, Hayley Andrews, said. “We also want to help potential victims and their families get one step ahead, preventing the abuse before it has a chance to begin, since elder financial exploitation costs American families and individual victims anywhere from $3 to $6 billion every year. We jumped at the chance of having a volunteer expert from AARP come educate folks about fraud prevention alongside our experts here at Rivermark.”

In Idaho, member education centered on Medicare recently at Icon Credit Union. The credit union offered three sessions of a Medicare 101 seminar given by a licensed Medicare representative. The event was well attended and enabled the credit union to serve members at a specific stage in life.

Medicare is also a popular workshop topic for Mid Oregon Credit Union in Bend, Oregon. The course is presented by a local Medicare specialist, and focuses on the important decisions a retiree needs to make about their Medicare plans, the different options available, and the deadlines to keep in mind. The credit union also offers sessions on identity theft, a Public Employees Retirement program overview, and organizing financial records. Older members also appreciate Mid Oregon’s free shred event each April after the tax deadline, to help members safely destroy outdated financial records.

One of the most beneficial services credit unions can offer older members is combating the growing problem of financial elder abuse. A recent example of this happened in Beaverton, Oregon, when a Northwest credit union alerted authorities about a plumber who had stolen more than $17,000 from an elderly woman under the pretense of performing home repairs.

A report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that elder financial exploitation suspicious activity reports increased by more than four times in SARs filed from 2013 to 2017, with financial institutions reporting $1.7 billion in suspicious activities in 2017, including losses and attempts to steal older adults’ funds.

Credit unions can play a critical role in helping to detect and prevent elder abuse. The CFPB recommends these sound practices:

  1. Develop, implement, and maintain internal protocols and procedures for protecting account holders from elder financial exploitation.
  2. Train management and staff to prevent, detect, and respond to elder financial exploitation.
  3. Detect elder financial exploitation by harnessing technology.
  4. Report all cases of suspected exploitation to relevant federal, state, and local authorities.
  5. Protect older account holders.
  6. Collaborate with other stakeholders.

If you have questions or would like more information on combating elder financial abuse at your credit union, please contact Katie Clark.

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