Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced legislation in the FY 2021 Executive Budget to protect elder New Yorkers from financial exploitation. This proposal will strengthen banks' ability to place a hold on the bank account of a vulnerable adult if there is sufficient reason to believe that the adult is a victim of actual or attempted financial exploitation by creating parameters for the holds, providing financial institutions and employees with immunity from civil liability for holding transactions, and requiring reporting of the hold to the Office of Children and Family Services. The Department of Financial Services will also create a new certification program for banking institutions to bolster training and education in financial exploitation.
"Seniors are at a greater risk of being victims of financial exploitation, and this legislation will create new measures that will allow banks to better safeguard their hard-earned savings," Governor Cuomo said. "These reforms will help protect some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers from financial exploitation and will take one more step toward a stronger, fairer and more just Empire State for all."
Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services Linda Lacewell said, "Elder New Yorkers are an especially vulnerable population, and the measures included in Governor Cuomo's 2020 agenda will help protect our seniors from financial exploitation. This legislation will help banks here in New York take action to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from financial predators and strengthen the integrity of our financial system."
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, “New York State is a national leader in combatting elder abuse and financial exploitation. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership and via interagency partnerships, we are the first state to implement a statewide Enhanced-Multi-Disciplinary Team approach consisting of a cross-discipline of professionals such as law enforcement, adult protective services, geriatric psychiatrists, and forensic accountants to intervene in complex cases of elder financial exploitation and abuse. This legislation is yet another example of our ongoing commitment as the first age-friendly state in the nation to support older adults and their families.”
While current law permits a financial institution to place a hold on a bank account for suspected financial exploitation of a vulnerable person, banks, fearing potential civil liability if they institute such a hold, have hesitated to act on such a suspicion. This proposal would create parameters for the holds and provide financial institutions and employees with immunity from civil liability for holding transactions and reporting when there is a reasonable suspicion of elder financial abuse. Banks will be able to more effectively deploy a transaction hold on the account of an elder adult when there is sufficient reason to suspect financial exploitation and a transaction hold appears necessary for asset protection. During the course of the transaction hold, the account holder will have access to account funds to meet ongoing housing, living, and emergency expenses.
Governor Cuomo has made it a top priority to deter unlawful actions against New Yorkers and put an end to senior financial abuse. A 2013 study found the statewide impact of financial exploitation to be at least $1.5 billion. To report suspected elder financial exploitation, individuals and financial institutions should contact their local APS unit. Telephone numbers for all local APS units in New York can be found by calling the statewide Adult Services Helpline at 1-844-697-3505.