Why Aren’t Banks Protecting Elders

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My husband has dementia which is why I did our taxes! Was it enjoyable, no but now that it’s over I’m thrilled that I know the process of compiling a year’s worth of income and whittling it down to a minimum number that dictates what I must pay the IRS.

I have also inherited his bills – most of which I knew nothing about. In one case, he lost the credit card. How did I find out, he handed me a letter from the company stating that he was past due. I immediately called, but the bank will not allow me to pay a past-due credit card bill over the phone. I have his social security number, his checking account number, his date of birth, but those don’t count – they need the credit card number. They would much rather have me write a letter, show up at the branch to wait in line for assistance from a “personal banker” than make it convenient for me. I cannot imagine what it is like to be an Elder who has lost a credit card and no longer has the necessary information.

Banks are highly regulated only because of their ineptitude and fraud. Remember the Savings and Loan (S & L) debacle that led to the recession of 1990/1991, followed by the bad mortgage tranches that brought about the financial institutions and real estate collapse of 2007/2008. Then there’s Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the United States, who defrauded customers out of millions of dollars and damaged their credit scores by setting up millions of bank accounts, credit card accounts, and banking services without the customer’s knowledge or consent. Yet, the consumers pay the price. I cannot pay a lost credit card debt without doing somersaults.

I have a client who is recovering from a stroke he suffered at the age of 75. None of his banks made it easy for him when it was time to fund his trust. In each case he was made to appear in person (not an easy task when the left side of the body doesn’t function), and sit in the office while a “banker” called an office in never-never-banking-land to change the account from one titled in his name to one titled “The Samename Living Trust.” Nothing changed… not even the account number, but he was charged $55.00 for new checks.

And, why aren’t banks watching out for our Elders? They know when we’re one day late on a payment, but can’t alert us when $50,000 is suddenly transferred “online”? (You’re allowed to transfer up to $99,000 online) At a minimum, send an alert to the account. Why not use the same technology to protect Elders from scammers (often their family). We need to change the culture so that banks function for the client’s convenience, not vice versa.

We know this article raises more questions than it answers. We provide expert service to guide you through the medical, financial, and emotional stress of caring for an aging parent or spouse. Our law firm was born out of the personal journey of Attorney H. Frances Reaves as she cared for her own parents.  This experience taught her that most seniors in the United States are ignored by society, the government, business and, sadly, their children.  Most children of elderly parents don’t know how many benefits and resources are available for their parents or ailing family members. Let us help you. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.