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By Lorenzo Cruz

Financial exploitation of the elderly population is a growing and widespread problem domestically and globally. It is difficult to comprehend that an individual would deliberately prey upon senior citizens for significant monetary gain, but financial exploitation has become a pervasive problem frequently costing seniors billions of dollars worldwide. On June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, bankers are encouraged to join WBA in raising awareness to help prevent the financial exploitation of elders across the country.

What to Look For

Often, criminals devise deceptive schemes to disguise the criminal activity that seniors often fall victim to. Some of the common frauds affecting seniors include romance scams, government impostor scams, friend impostor scams, and online shopping scams. Fraud reports filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that seniors’ losses totaled $600 million in 2020. The costliest schemes were romance scams with reported losses of $139 million in 2020. However, the vast majority of elder financial exploitation goes unreported.

What is more disconcerting is that sometimes the criminal masterminds could be the durable power of attorney (POA) like a family member or close friend. A family member is the perpetrator in over 60% of these financial abuse cases, according to a University of Southern California study. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that approximately 10% of Americans above the age of 60 have succumbed to some form of elder abuse. Several of the warning signs to be on the watch out for related to financial abuse are sudden changes in seniors’ personal finances, uncharacteristic bank withdrawals, checks written out as loans or gifts, lost property, and unpaid bills.

Seniors can protect their finances by maintaining accurate financial records, never providing personal information over the phone, getting a second opinion on financial matters from an attorney or financial advisor, and selecting a trustworthy person to assist in managing personal finances. If family or friends suspect financial elder exploitation, talk to the victim about the possibility of fraud and report suspected abuse to adult protective services, law enforcement, and banks. While banks are restricted from sharing specific account information, they can review potential abuse and report suspicious criminal behavior.

Actions WBA is Taking

Last July, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a law to protect vulnerable adults from fraudulent financial transactions. The new law allows financial institutions and financial service companies to decline, delay, or report transactions that are suspected of elder financial abuse for vulnerable adults 55 years or older. At that time, South Carolina joined 31 other states that passed similar legislation.

In the Badger State, the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) pursued a similar path to protect seniors from this insidious crime wave and reintroduced an elder financial exploitation bill in 2021. SB 19/AB 46 and SB 20/AB 45 co-authored by State Senator Pat Testin and State Representative John Macco provided financial institutions and securities companies with  the tools to better protect their vulnerable adults and senior customers from fraud and abuse. The bills would allow financial institutions and securities companies to pause transactions suspected of financial elder fraud and would allow them to collaborate with the customer, a trustworthy list of individuals, and law enforcement to determine if the transactions should be approved. While the potential elder abuse transaction is on hold, the remaining funds in the account would still be available for other transactions. The bills also would permit reporting requirements, provide liability protections, and allow refusal of POA in suspected elder fraud cases.

As the elder fraud legislation moved through the legislative process, WBA’s advocacy efforts saw mixed success on the bills before the state legislature. WBA actively lobbied the issue and passed the elder fraud legislation in the assembly on a bipartisan vote with an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, the bill stalled in the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Revenue. Despite falling short on passing an elder financial exploitation law in Wisconsin, WBA made tremendous progress on the issue. WBA’s government relations team remains committed to enacting legislation that would provide banks with the tools needed to protect seniors from costly fraud. Passage of the elder financial exploitation legislation remains a high priority for WBA during the next legislative session, which begins in January of 2023.

Join us in Madison for WBA’s annual Trust Conference

On May 25, 2022, WBA will be hosting its annual Trust Conference for the benefit of those involved with trust and estate planning. The one-day event held at the WBA office will assist trust professionals in staying up to date on upcoming changes in regulations, the economy, and overall trust department functions.

The conference will also feature a general session on elder abuse and undue influence by Jonathan Ingrisano and Nicholas Bezier of Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. Trust bankers and wealth managers of all levels will benefit from this session on spotting and responding to potential financial abuse of their elderly customers.

According to the World Health Organization, one in six individuals 60 years or older have experienced some form of abuse. Of this, less than 20% of financial abuse is reported by the individual or their proxies. “It is a growing problem that we can only expect to get worse as our population ages,” said Ingrisano.

This troubling trend is not only on the rise in Wisconsin, but throughout the country. As fraudsters become more sophisticated (even so that celebrities such as Stan Lee have endured financial abuse), it is important that bankers know the signs, understand their rights, and feel confident in approaching the situation.

As elder financial abuse cases rise, bankers have taken on the role of trusted advisors and observers. Trust bankers especially develop unique professional and personal relationships with their customers and have a greater ability to notice patterns, spot questionable distributions, and identify unexpected changes in their repeat customers patterns and behaviors.

“I want trust bankers to know they are empowered to do what they think is right, and their hands are not tied,” said Ingrisano. In this, the session will include advice from Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. representatives on reporting financial abuse or fraud, the tools and resources for trust bankers to consult as they work through cases, and important red flags to notice both in elderly customers and/or personal relatives experiencing such abuse.

In addition, trust bankers will also have the opportunity to learn more about how their paper trail observations on the front end can impact the actions taken by department heads or legal counsel on the back end. Through referrals or reports, bankers will learn of the avenues available to protect vulnerable members of their communities.

WBA’s Trust Conference is approved for 5.25 CTFA credit through the American Bankers Association (ABA). Register now to take advantage of this opportunity to stay ahead of upcoming regulatory changes, maintain your certification through ABA, as well as gain insight on how to better serve your community. Please contact Miranda Helt, WBA’s assistant director – education, at mhelt@wisbank.com with questions regarding the conference.

By Lorenzo Cruz

March Madness marks the start of the NCAA basketball tournament and the conclusion to an active 2022 legislative session for the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) government relations (GR) team.

A Successful Legislative Session in the Books

WBA successfully defeated two bills which would have negatively impacted the banking industry. AB 478/SB 451 would have broadened the powers of credit unions by allowing for: non-member participation in loans, the ability to issue and offer supplemental forms of capital for all credit unions, the automatic adoption of federally chartered credit union activities or powers for state-chartered credit unions, and the broadening of the authority of credit unions on holding property. During the negotiations, it became evident that the priority for the Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL) was their supplemental capital change which contributed to the demise of the bill. WBA effectively lobbied and defeated the bills in the Assembly and Senate.

Another piece of legislation that drew a great amount of WBA’s lobbying attention was a bill related to interchange fees. AB 587/SB 572 would have prohibited the application of the interchange fee to the tax portion of the credit card transaction and would have provided a penalty for a violation. A retailer coalition advocated aggressively for the legislative change and WBA, WCUL, and several credit card companies opposed the effort. If passed, the bill would have required credit card companies to implement a split tender transaction for purchasing products or services, which means customers would have to swipe their credit card for the retail sum purchase and then pay with either cash or check for the tax portion of the transaction. WBA warned legislators of the cost shift, customer confusion and frustration that could follow from the change. The bills died in the Senate and Assembly Financial Institutions Committees.

Other bills worth noting are AB 596/SB 596 related to banking modernization and AB 45/SB 19 and AB 46/ SB 20 related to elder fraud. The banking modernization bill would have removed outdated regulation and other impediments to banking and the elder fraud bill would have provided banks with more tools to help protect older customers from fraud and abuse. The legislative proposals passed overwhelmingly in one House but then failed to be acted upon in committee or placed on the calendar for a floor vote. In some ways, the bills became collateral damage from the credit union battle. WBA did make considerable progress on both issues and will collaborate with legislators to reintroduce similar bills in the next legislative session.

Looking Ahead to Next Year

With the end of the March session, WBA GR shifts the team’s focus to political fundraising, member outreach, and strategic planning for the 2023 session. Many of the legislative issues identified above will return and be debated in the next state budget or advanced as separate pieces of legislation. WBA needs to prepare and lay the groundwork for the fight ahead on these critical public policy initiatives.

All members — big, medium, and small — must be more engaged financially in the political process and committed to grassroots advocacy to advance the industry’s priorities. Political campaigns have continued to trend upwards in cost, and the 2022 fall elections should see more spending records broken for state and federal races. With control for the East Wing in play and majorities at stake in both State and Federal Houses, expect hundreds of millions of dollars to be spent in Wisconsin which has become a battleground state for the rest of the country. WBA can ill afford to be a spectator. Sitting on the sidelines runs the risk of electing anti-banking candidates which could have severe negative consequences for our industry. It is imperative to have the political funds in place for WBA to support pro-banking incumbent legislators and challengers. Individual members are strongly encouraged to give to the Wisbankpac or Alliance of Bankers for Wisconsin (ABW) Conduit and corporations are urged to contribute generously to WBA’s issue advocacy fund. For more information go to www.wisbank.com/give.

Senior holding credit card

By Paul Gores

An elderly bank customer says she needs to send $10,000 to her grandson, who called from Mexico frantically claiming that’s how much money he needs to get out of jail.

A man suddenly has started appearing with his father-in-law on visits to the bank, assisting the senior, who sometimes seems nervous or confused, with making larger-than-normal withdrawals.

A man in his late 70s states he was notified he just won a lottery, but  needs to send money to cover the taxes before he can receive his prize.

Scenarios like these are among red flags bankers watch for as they try to prevent their customers from falling victim to the growing crime of financial exploitation of older adults.

According to the FBI, each year millions of elderly Americans are victimized by some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme,  draining seniors’ bank accounts of more than $3 billion.

In Wisconsin, a survey last year for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services indicated that more than $31 million was lost through financial exploitation of the elderly, said April DeValkenaere, a white collar crime paralegal for the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office.

The problem is even worse than the available numbers indicate, she said. It’s estimated that only one in 44 cases of elder financial exploitation is ever reported, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).

That means almost every bank has customers who are in jeopardy of being duped by a scam or being exploited by a family member or caregiver.

“I do not have statistics for how large the problem is in Wisconsin, however we have eight locations, from Waunakee to Green Bay, and we have seen cases of elder abuse in all of our communities,” said Theresa Weckwerth, vice president and enterprise risk manager for Berlin-based Fortifi Bank. “No community is too large or too small to be free from elder abuse. I believe it is everywhere. The more we can educate our elders, the stronger we will be in fighting elder abuse as a whole.”

The list of online, email, and phone scams that target senior citizens is long, but they don’t account for most of the money lost through financial crimes that exploit the elderly, said DeValkenaere.

“In the overall scheme of things, scams of older adults are only 10% of the actual theft from older adults,” DeValkenaere said. “The other 90% of theft from older adults are actually from a trusted individual — someone they know and trust. Their family members, caregivers, powers of attorney, guardians, neighbors, or loved ones, all of those people essentially account for 90% of elder financial exploitation.”

Many banks train their employees to be on the lookout for changes in customer patterns and routines that might indicate someone has gained undue influence over them and their financial decisions. But it’s not always easy to detect.

“Sometimes if you have that overly helpful family member,” said Debby Bartolerio, chief operating officer at First Citizens State Bank in Whitewater. “Sometimes that’s good because they are actually assisting the elder. But sometimes, that is a family member who’s taking advantage of them. And that’s kind of a hard thing to determine, which side of the fence are they on.”

Weckwerth said caregivers — family members or a non-relatives hired to care for them — sometimes take advantage of the elderly.

“The victim is sometimes made to feel guilty if they try to confront the situation, or afraid that their needs will not be met if they say something,” said Weckwerth, who is a member of the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s Financial Crimes Committee. “Many times, the caregiver will make them feel like they ‘owe’ them for all they do, or threaten to not provide the basic things that are needed such as groceries or healthcare.”

Bartolerio, who also is a member of WBA’s Financial Crimes Committee, said a community bank like hers, where there are many longtime customers whom tellers have gotten to know, might be in a better position than some to identify trouble.

Tom Mews, president of FNC Bank in New Richmond, also said a community bank may have an edge in scouting out trouble because of the relationships the bank has with customers.

“We know our customers,” he said. “We’re not simply relying on a computer database to kick up red flags. We know what normal transactions are because we see them on a regular basis. We can spot these things just because we know who our customers are.”

According to the FBI, seniors become targets of financial crooks because they tend to be trusting and polite. In addition, they often have financial savings and good credit.

The FBI also says seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don’t know how, or they may be too ashamed at having been scammed.

An elderly victim of a romance scam, for instance, might be too embarrassed about being taken in by a scammer via an online dating service.

“We also see romance/companion scams where the elderly are lonely and seeking companionship,” Weckwerth said. “This is generally someone conning the elderly into sending them money for travel, or expenses to keep them out of trouble.”

A recent article by Katherine Skiba of AARP.org detailed how elderly customers of the online dating service Match.com lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fake suitors.

DeValkenaere said many seniors are lonely, but sometimes too trusting. She cited “social isolation” as the source of their involvement in romance scams.

DeValkenaere said she believes banks generally have been doing a good job at keeping their eyes open for financial exploitation of the elderly.

“I think a lot of the financial institutions are training their people very well in regards to what to watch out for and some of these red flags,” she said.

Mews listed circumstances that should raise eyebrows for bankers who handle accounts for the elderly:

  • Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice
  • Unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder
  • Sudden non-sufficient fund activity
  • The inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card
  • Unexplained changes in power of attorney, will, or other legal documents
  • Missing checks or money
  • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for the older adult
  • Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card
  • Abrupt changes in financial documents
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions
  • Unpaid bills despite the availability of adequate financial resources
  • Discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the title of possessions
  • Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions.

DeValkenaere said some scams against seniors are seasonal.

“Like the imposter scam. We’ve seen a lot of those lately because this is the enrollment period for Medicare. Fraudsters are calling saying they’re from Medicare or they’re from Social Security and you have to pay this money up front so that we can register you for your insurance. Victims are convinced they need to give money to these people to keep or acquire Medicare coverage,” DeValkenaere said. “Right now, Medicare scams are huge. Come the spring, it’s going to be IRS imposter scams. They’re huge in the spring because it’s tax time.”

In the hopes of tricking the elderly into turning over personal financial information or sending them money, crooks also pretend to be from a government agency.

“Now they are impersonating law enforcement, saying you missed jury duty and if you don’t pay up, we’re going to arrest you or send you to jail, that kind of thing,” DeValkenaere said. “People don’t realize that they’re scams. They are trying to abide by the authorities. It’s just the generation they grew up in. But if our younger tellers have no idea that these scams are even out there, or what they mean, or the timeframe of year they should be watching for them, they can’t educate their customers on it.”

Mews, chair of WBA’s Government Relations Committee, is among bankers hoping state legislation that would let a bank delay a transaction when fraud is suspected will advance and become law.

The bills, AB 45 and AB 46, would allow qualified individuals to temporarily pause transactions where they suspect elder fraud is taking place, refuse power of attorney in certain situations, and allow seniors to name a trusted contact as an extra layer of protection.

“I think community representatives have a really good handle on what should be paused and what shouldn’t be,” Mews said.

The bills also provide legal protection to bankers acting in good faith to prevent elder financial fraud. Both bills passed on voice votes in the full Assembly in May, but since have stalled.

“This would help us by allowing banks to refuse or delay any transaction when we suspect exploitation or abuse,” said Weckwerth.

DeValkenaere, who was a member of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse in 2018, said the legislation is needed.

“It gives the financial institution a pause button to start the investigation as to whether or not this specific transaction is fraudulent,” she said. “So if they are trying to wire $20,000 out of country, the financial institution can hit pause and they can do their own investigation. They can involve other people, meaning Adult Protective Services, law enforcement. They can look into some other options.”

Bankers and experts say the desire for companionship and unfamiliarity with technology contribute to the risk of fraud for the elderly. That vulnerability puts banks in a special role for protecting their customers.

“This is why it is so important for banks and other trusted advisers to continue to educate elders on fraud and how to identify it,” Weckwerth said. “It is important that we know our clients and help them feel comfortable talking to us. They should never be afraid to ask questions of their bankers or talk to us. Many times, the fraud is caught in the front line from a conversation or other indicators that lead us to believe there is a problem and ask more questions.”

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years.

We all know the basics of problem-solving. Step 1— identify the problem. Step 2 —develop options and a plan to solve the problem. Step 3— execute the plan to address the problem. Step 4—evaluate the effectiveness of the solution you deployed. 

Not to be all doom and gloom, but we have a big problem on our hands: elder fraud. 

These days, chances are you or a family member know someone in their sphere who has been a victim of financial exploitation or had a near-miss. At this point we are all conditioned to instantly delete emails from that overly generous Nigerian prince promising you millions once you reply with all your sensitive information. But modern-day schemes are very elaborate, prey on peoples’ sensibilities, or are carried about by individuals the victim knows and trusts. Even for the sharpest tacks, it can be difficult to differentiate between what is legitimate and what is not. 

Without casting any sort of judgement, older populations are more vulnerable to these schemes; they are more heavily targeted, and losses are both higher and more devastating. Past their peak earning years, seniors can end up in dire financial straits.

Financial exploitation, be it theft or a scam, is a pervasive and growing problem both in Wisconsin and nationwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters even worse, as fraudsters are increasingly targeting those who find themselves isolated or financially desperate. Since the onset of the pandemic, fraud attempts have nearly tripled. Quantifying the problem is slightly difficult; we only know the information that gets reported, which is only a fraction of the true number of incidents. The monetary toll is in the billions, and the ancillary effects may even be worse.

We know elder fraud is a problem, we know it takes place in Wisconsin, and we know it is only getting worse. How are we going to tackle this issue? As banking industry professionals, thankfully we also know bankers can play a role in curbing elder fraud and financial exploitation. With all this in mind, we’ve turned to the State Legislature to give bank, credit union, securities, and financial services personnel additional tools and empowerment to prevent financial harm to seniors.

In the 2019-20 legislative session, two bills developed in concert by law enforcement, advocates, and the aforementioned stakeholder groups were introduced and passed by the Assembly. The plan was more than halfway to being executed before COVID-19 threw a wrench in lawmaking and just about everything else.

My monthly government relations pieces are typically more lighthearted, so you know I’m not going to end this on a sour note. So here is some good news—though we had to press reset on Step 3, the Legislature picked up right where it left off. The same day WBA held our virtual Capitol Day (May 11), which included a summary on the issue of elder fraud, the State Assembly approved two pieces of legislation—Assembly Bills 45 and 46—on voice votes.

These bills would allow qualified individuals to temporarily pause transactions where they suspect elder fraud is taking place, refuse power of attorney in certain situations, and allow seniors to name a trusted contact as an extra layer of protection. The bills also provide legal protection to bankers acting in good faith to prevent elder financial fraud.

Our focus now turns to the State Senate, once more, where we need affirmative votes to get these bills across the finish line. We’ve been working hard to push these bills through the process but still need grassroots help.

Together, I am optimistic we can get to Step 4, where we can begin to evaluate how effective our plan was to solve the elder fraud problem. I’d be willing to bet we’ll like the results we see when we get there

By, Alex Paniagua

The state Senate’s Committee on Financial Institutions and Revenue postponed a vote on Senate Bills 19 and 20 after a lobbying group raised questions that caused confusion about the scope, purpose, and practical application of the bills.  

The State Bar of Wisconsin, the state trade association for lawyers, was represented by Carol Wessels of Wessels & Liebau LLC in Mequon, who testified in opposition to the elder fraud protection legislation. “These bills have the potential to cause long-lasting, severe damage," stated Wessels. "Not only do these bills cause. . . severe financial damage and irreparable harm to the citizens of this state, who are 60 and over, but the bills are a substantial threat to individual liberty.” 

Wessels continued, “We recognize these bills protect the public good, but it comes at a price of a very important liberty…these bills threaten that third interest (money) that is critically important to seniors." 

WBA Chair-Elect Ken Thompson, president/CEO of Capitol Bank in Madison, testified in support of both bills on behalf of Wisconsin’s banking industry stating, “there should be a sense of urgency to do something. . . Since COVID-19 began, fraud attempts have nearly tripled.” Thompson told the committee the bills will “give bankers tools, hopefully to reduce the probability of financial loss.” 

Senate Bill 19 allows that if a financial service provider reasonably suspects that financial exploitation of an adult at risk or an individual who is 60 years of age or older has occurred or been attempted, the financial service provider may, but is not required to, refuse or delay a financial transaction on an account of the vulnerable adult or on which the vulnerable adult is a beneficiary or on an account of a person suspected of perpetrating financial exploitation.  

The definition of “financial service provider” under the bill includes financial institutions, mortgage bankers and brokers, other types of lenders, and check cashing services. In addition, a financial service provider may, but is not required to, refuse or delay a financial transaction if an elder-adult-at-risk agency, adult-at-risk agency, or law enforcement agency provides information to the financial service provider that financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult may have occurred or been attempted. The bill requires notice if a financial service provider refuses or delays a financial transaction under these circumstances and establishes certain time limits applicable to the refusal or delay of the financial transaction. In addition, the bill allows a financial service provider to refuse to accept a power of attorney of a vulnerable adult if the financial service provider reasonably suspects that the vulnerable adult may be the victim of financial exploitation. 

Supporters of the legislation include the Wisconsin Bankers Association, Wisconsin Credit Union League, AARP Wisconsin, and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Please contact members of the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Revenue to urge them to support SB 19 and SB 20: 

Sample Message:
Dear Senator Stafsholt:  

My name is [name], and I am [role] at [name of bank] in [city/town], Wisconsin. I am writing to urge you to vote in favor of Senate Bills 19 and 20. Bankers are in a unique position to be able to identify, prevent, or stop elder financial abuse – they just need some additional empowerment. Our goal is to be part of the solution, so any tools that help bank staff prevent customers from becoming elder fraud victims are efforts we support. Over the next two decades, Wisconsin’s 65 and older population will increase by 72%, and one in nine seniors have reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in 2017. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), the rate of elder financial abuse has increased by double digits in our state in recent years. These bills will enhance financial institutions’ ability to detect and prevent the increasing problem of elder financial exploitation in our state and we encourage you to support them.  

Sincerely,  
[Name] 

By, Alex Paniagua

On Tuesday, March 2, the Assembly Committee on Financial Institutions held an informational hearing for an update on the status of Wisconsin’s financial industry. WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Capitol Bank President and CEO Ken Thompson were invited to speak on several key issues. Notable topics included:  COVID’s long-term impact on the economy, banks’ role in the execution of the Paycheck Protection Program, real estate and agricultural market outlooks, and the importance of passing elder fraud prevention legislation. 

Wisconsin DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld led off the hearing by noting that “Wisconsin’s Banks and Credit Unions answered the call and played a key role in state and federal relief efforts.” She remarked, Wisconsin’s state-chartered banks showed “good profitability, while maintaining strong capital positions with minimal asset quality problems.” An area of concern for DFI includes overall asset quality. While the PPP provided needed relief, the long-term impact of COVID to the economy is still unknown.” After several down years, Sec. Blumenfeld noted we still need to watch the ag sector despite recent improvement in commodity prices. “Wisconsin’s farmers still need a sustained period of improvement to truly recover from the last several years,” said Blumenfeld. 

DFI noted that current trends with commercial real estate are stable, but with the possibility of a more remote work environment in the future, commercial office space could be impacted. 

Oswald Poels led off WBA’s testimony by thanking legislators for their diligence on COVID-relief last session, and fast action on important tax conformity and liability protection policies enacted this session. She then highlighted banks’ role in both prior and during the PPP loan process, noting “Wisconsin banks stepped up and really punched above our weight class in making sure business owners got taken care of.” Before concluding, Oswald Poels covered some of the challenges facing the banking industry in Wisconsin, such as low merger and acquisition activity due to economic uncertainty, and the low interest rate environment. She stressed with legislators the importance of policies at the state and federal levels that support the community banking sector. 

Thompson stated that Wisconsin’s banks provided 87% of the PPP loans in the state and worked creatively with customers throughout the past year. “If there was ever a year that should convince you that community banking is needed in this state and in this country, this was the year. We are able to allow customers to defer loans and right now, collectively 15% of the commercial real estate loans are in deferral, but the position is improving.” Thompson noted that “people are being cautious and liquidity levels within the industry are very high which creates a great environment to make loans which will spur the economy.” 

Thompson and Oswald Poels requested the legislature take action during the hearing, such as the consideration of new tax policies that would allow certainty, efficiency, and lower costs for businesses and customers, creating agricultural policies that consider the unique perspective of both Wisconsin’s farmers and the banking industry, maintaining a consistent and predictable source of revenue for the state, and protecting our elderly by allowing all financial institutions to be able to place a pause on transactions.   

Banks remain the building blocks of communities by providing capital for consumers and businesses, revenue to the state, and value to the overall economy. You can watch the informational hearing in full by clicking here and creating a free WisconsinEye account.  

By, Alex Paniagua

The Wisconsin Bankers Association offers for your use the following consumer education column. Your bank is free to use this as a community column in your local newspaper, a letter to the editor, a press release or in any other way you see fit. The purpose is to give our members an easy-to-use tool for promoting the banking industry to Wisconsin's communities.

Elder abuse is a growing issue across Wisconsin and the entire nation. Over the next two decades, Wisconsin's 65 and older population will increase by 72 percent. In 2017, one in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected, or exploited. Law enforcement, advocacy groups, and Wisconsin's bankers are working together to prevent financial exploitation of our state's seniors, and you can help, too! Here's how:

First, understand what financial exploitation is. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines elder financial abuse as "the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual's resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual." Common examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions, and use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property. 

Second, learn to recognize the red flags of financial abuse. Keep a close watch on your elderly family members and friends and look for signs such as unusual spending or withdrawal patterns, frequent purchases of unusual or out-of-character items, unpaid bills and/or utilities being turned off, or the presence of a new "best friend" who is accepting generous "gifts" from the older adult.

Finally, know who the typical perpetrators are. Unfortunately, in most cases the abuser is someone the elderly person knows and trusts. Many times the perpetrator is a family member. They may express feeling that the elderly person's belongings are rightfully theirs. The abuser may have financial difficulties such as a tendency to gamble. They may also express fears that the victim will "use up" all of their savings and deprive the perpetrator of an inheritance. Non-relatives may move from community to community in order to avoid detection. They may also try to gain access to elderly persons by masquerading as a counselor or by finding a job as a caretaker. 

Elderly persons who are most at risk are lonely, isolated, unfamiliar with financial matters, and may have lost someone recently or have mental or physical disabilities. 

By using the information above to identify possible elder financial and reporting it to the authorities, you can help stop or prevent this injustice. 

The Wisconsin Bankers Association and its members have worked closely over the past few months with Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and his Elder Abuse Task Force in creating an awareness video addressing the issue of elder financial abuse for frontline bank staff. Even though the video is designed to educate bank staff, family and friends of Wisconsin's elders will also find it full of useful information. You can watch the video on YouTube here. 

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns

Visit MyMazuma for the latest financial education resources for consumers.

By, Amber Seitz

Events

Elder financial exploitation, the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or assets, has emerged as one of the most significant frauds and the most common form of elder abuse in the United States. This webinar will discuss common scams targeting older adults, red flags and will discuss reasons for cognitive decline. Join us as the information will enhance your bank’s efforts to prevent, detect and respond to elder financial exploitation.

Covered Topics

  • Discussion on why financial professionals are the “watchdogs” for exploitation
  • Tips for recognizing signs of diminished capacity
  • Review the first-ever public analysis of EFE SAR filings
  • Identify Red Flags for Elder Financial Exploitation
  • SAR completion for elder exploitation
  • Free materials available to promote customer awareness and to train your staff
  • Discuss Community Outreach Opportunities and materials

Take-Away Toolkit

  • Comprehensive list of free resources
  • Elder Suspicious Activity Form
  • Sample Policy Language
  • Quick Responses to Potential EFE Customer Situations

Who Should Attend
This informative session is designed for compliance officers, BSA officers, trainers, branch managers, lenders, marketing, and bank management.

Instructor Bio
Molly Stull began her banking career on the teller line while working on her undergraduate degree and has continued working in the financial industry ever since. Some of her experience includes roles in operations, business resumption planning, consumer compliance, and conducting audits. Her favorite role is ensuring that her audience, whether on the sports field or in the financial industry, understands the “why” behind the rule. Her wealth of financial knowledge and her numerous years of experience enable her to relate the material to the audience.

Registration Options
Live Access, 30 Days OnDemand Playback, Presenter Materials and Handouts $279

Available Upgrades:

  • 12 Months OnDemand Playback + $110
  • 12 Months OnDemand Playback + CD + $140
  • Additional Live Access + $75 per person