WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 4, 2015) – In testimony today before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw called financial exploitation one of the most serious issues facing seniors and outlined an innovative approach Maine is taking to tackle the problem.

“Addressing senior financial exploitation is difficult but critical. Many in our elderly population are vulnerable due to social isolation and distance from family and other support networks. The days of Americans growing old in communities, surrounded by generations of family members, are fading into the past,” Shaw testified during a hearing entitled: “Broken Trust: Combating Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Seniors.”

“This is a community problem that requires a holistic solution. We must all come together to weave a new safety net for our elderly, breaking down barriers and walls that have kept us from seeking achievable solutions,” said Shaw, who also serves as president-elect of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and co-chair of the Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention.

Shaw outlined for the committee Maine’s successful Senior$afe program, a public/private training and outreach initiative launched last year to increase identification and reporting of elder financial exploitation—specifically, by financial institutions. The program includes training for tellers, other front-line staff and managers on the red flags of elder abuse and financial exploitation and where to report suspicions of fraud.

“The benefits of this type of reporting and referral system are far-reaching. It leads to improved safety in the community for seniors and other customers of the financial institution,” Shaw testified. “Proactive measures help promote goodwill in the community and affirm the commitment of institutions to their customers’ well-being and financial independence.”

Senior$afe is a partnership between the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Aging and Disability Services, the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (which includes the Maine Office of Securities), the Maine Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, Maine’s Legal Services for the Elderly, and Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging. Each partner also is a member of the Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention, which helped develop Senior$afe.

Shaw said 210 bank and credit union employees have received Senior$afe training and the Office of Securities has received 20 referrals resulting from the program since the program was launched last year. Given the program’s initial success, Shaw said Senior$afe program materials have been shared with NASAA for revision and co-branding so that it can be made available to all NASAA members in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“We must work together to create a new safety net using every available resource at our disposal,” Shaw said. “Combating elder abuse and financial exploitation requires consistent education, identification, reporting, investigation, and prosecution.”

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Bob Webster | Director of Communications