Michigan Legacy Credit Union partners with Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology to fight financial exploitation of vulnerable adults
Pilot program will use Wayne State’s Financial Vulnerability Survey and be shared throughout Michigan’s credit union community at upcoming events
WYANDOTTE, MI (April 25, 2022) — Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU), with branches in Wyandotte, Warren, Pontiac, Highland and Flat Rock and 24-hour online banking services, is pleased to announce it has launched a pilot program with Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology to help protect its vulnerable members from financial exploitation. The announcement was made by Michigan Legacy Credit Union President and CEO Carma Peters.
In September of 2021, Michigan enacted the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, requiring financial institutions to offer training and procedures to recognize financial exploitation and protect vulnerable clients from becoming victims. After learning of Wayne State’s Financial Vulnerability Survey, a short questionnaire to determine the risk of financial exploitation, Peters saw an immediate opportunity to take action on behalf of MLCU members.
“Older adult financial exploitation is at epidemic heights,” Peters said. “Sadly, these crimes are often swept under the rug because victims are too ashamed to report them. We never want to see a credit union member financially manipulated and victimized, and this pilot program provides resources to truly empower our staff and our members.”
New members of the credit union age 50 and up are automatically offered the Financial Vulnerability Survey – and dozens have taken it thus far. Their scores are included in a database to help monitor these members’ accounts for abnormal financial activity. All MLCU credit union staff participated in multiple training sessions with Wayne State on the survey and learned how to identify and discuss cognitive risk factors before exploitation occurs. As a result of this training, staff members have already been able to address several cases of older financial exploitation.
The Financial Vulnerability Survey is one of several tools created by Peter Lichtenberg, PhD, ABPP, to combat fraud and financial exploitation in older adults. Lichtenberg is the director of the Institute of Gerontology. For nearly two decades, he has done extensive research to develop and validate a variety of financial decision-making and vulnerability tools. The Financial Vulnerability Survey (FVS), a self-administered tool for older adults, is the most recent. The 17-question survey identifies older adults at increased risk of financial fraud and exploitation and suggests resources to help protect them.
“The FVS is easy to understand and to complete,” Dr. Lichtenberg said. “It resonates with older people who are concerned about their financial decision making. Finances are often a taboo topic for discussion, yet people are hungry for information about their own financial vulnerability level.” The FVS and other tools to assess financial decision making, plus resources for professionals, caregivers and older adults can be found at Lichtenberg’s website OlderAdultNestEgg.com.
Persons at risk or who have already been financially victimized are referred to the Institute of Gerontology’s SAFE program for help. SAFE (Successful Aging thru Financial Empowerment) offers counseling at no cost to help repair the damage of financial scams. Among other things, SAFE helps to recover funds, file police reports, and freeze credit reports as well as deepen client’s financial literacy.
“Through this pilot program with Wayne State, we can now point members to olderadultnestegg.com for valuable training and resources,” Peters said. “Studies show older adults who read the information are more likely to identify signs of financial exploitation before it happens.”
Expanding credit union education on financial exploitation
Peters and Lichtenberg will discuss the pilot project and financial exploitation protections with other credit unions at Audit Link’s Conversations on Compliance May 25 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and on June 10 at the Michigan Credit Union’s Annual Convention and Expo at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. Michigan Legacy Credit Union also created a campaign during April’s Financial Literacy Month to encourage existing members and owners to take the FVS and have their scores uploaded to the credit union’s database.
“Ideally, this pilot program will be utilized throughout the state of Michigan, and nationally, to help combat this epidemic and provide another tool to protect older adults from financial fraud,” Peters said.
Anonymous data from the project will be analyzed by Lichtenberg and his team to expand research insights into vulnerability and safeguards for older adults.
About Michigan Legacy Credit Union
Michigan Legacy Credit Union (MLCU) is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative serving members who live, work, worship, attend school, or own a business in the state of Michigan. Michigan Legacy Credit Union is committed to providing quality financial services at a competitive price, delivered professionally and efficiently while keeping member/owners and their needs first. For additional information on MLCU, visit: www.michiganlegacycu.org.