Few seniors know it, but they have a special layer of defense against fraud: employees of financial services firms who are trained to spot and report suspected financial abuse of customers over age 65.

Although frontline employees have been asked to flag suspicious behavior to authorities for years, the Senior Safe Act of 2018 made it easier for financial institutions to work with prosecutors.

“Elder fraud is a complex issue,” said Sam Kunjukunju, with the American Bankers Association Foundation. “The whole purpose of [the law] is to encourage a collaborative effort.”

The National Council on Aging estimates that financial exploitation costs older adults between $2.6 billion and $36.5 billion each year. Many victims never come forward.

“We’ve seen folks living Social Security payment to Social Security payment have their entire life savings drained by a home health aid worker, and we’ve seen people who retired from financial management get convinced to wire money to a fake charity,” said Tracy Swaim, with Heartland Financial USA in Dubuque, Iowa.

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