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MAINE DEPARTMENT OF PROFESSIONAL
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June 13, 2008
Agency Announces Expanded Efforts to Protect Seniors from Exploitation
Gardiner, Maine - In response to Governor John E. Baldacci’s call for State agencies to address the needs of Maine’s expanding older population, Acting Commissioner Anne L. Head called attention on Friday to Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is recognized worldwide each June 15th. Governor Baldacci has issued a proclamation to recognize the occasion throughout Maine. The proclamation’s language accompanies this press release.
In highlighting Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Acting Commissioner Head announced that the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation is stepping up its consumer protection efforts aimed at seniors. She also used the occasion to emphasize that the exploitation of the elderly often goes unreported.
“Millions of seniors across the United States are victimized each year, frequently by family members or other caregivers, and the majority of those cases are never reported or investigated,” Acting Commissioner Head commented. “More must be done to prevent these crimes against the elderly through greater awareness about the pervasiveness of the problem and by enhancing sensitivity to the signs of abuse.”
The National Center on Elder Abuse within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Maine Attorney General’s Office and other agencies, indicate that only a small percentage of abuse or neglect cases is reported. With regard to financial exploitation of the elderly, relatively few cases are ever brought to light.
Reasons given for this under-reporting include a general lack of knowledge about what constitutes financial abuse, and the fact that ‘trusted’ individuals close to the victims are all too often the ones perpetrating these crimes. Victims who are aware of their financial abuse may not report it because they are embarrassed that a family member is abusing them or they may fear retaliation or abandonment by a caregiver.
To address the exploitation of seniors in a more comprehensive way this summer and fall, the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation is expanding its outreach to seniors and those who care for them by organizing community forums, staffing booths at fairs and festivals, enhancing its online resources, submitting written material to news publications, and by partnering with organizations that seek to protect older Mainers.
Specifically, the Department’s Bureau of Financial Institutions is using Elder Abuse Awareness Day to update banks and credit unions about the “Maine Reporting Project for Financial Institutions," which is a public/private initiative between state agencies and the Maine Association of Community Banks, the Maine Bankers Association and the Maine Credit Union League. Its purpose is to help financial institutions identify and report incidents of financial abuse against incapacitated or dependent adults. The Maine Legislature recently amended the confidentiality section of the Banking Code in order to facilitate increased reporting by financial institutions.
Additionally, the Department’s Office of Securities is seeking to broaden its outreach by working with the State’s network of TRIAD groups. The mission of TRIAD is to reduce the criminal victimization of seniors and to enhance the overall safety of Maine’s aging population. It’s an all-volunteer organization whose name is derived from the fact that its members consist of three segments of society -- senior citizens, public safety personnel and representatives of community-based organizations. The Office of Securities has given numerous presentations at TRIAD meetings throughout Maine, and is launching a “train the trainer” project to prepare TIRAD volunteers to give financial abuse seminars to members of their individual senior advocacy organizations.
The Department’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection is also taking action this summer by developing a new publication to help seniors safeguard their financial resources. The “Downeaster Guide: Elderly Financial Protection” is expected to be available online by the end of July and in booklet form later in the summer.
More information about Elder Abuse Awareness Day and crimes against seniors is available from the National Center on Elder Abuse online at www.ncea.aoa.gov. Additional details about consumer protection services offered by the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation can be obtained at www.maine.gov/pfr.
The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation encourages sound ethical business practices through the regulation of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment providers, and numerous professions and occupations for the purpose of protecting the citizens of Maine.
Last Updated: June 16, 2008 3:25 PM
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