The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced this week a national public inquiry into financial elder abuse. The CFPB says it seeks to learn more about the many ways that seniors are exploited into giving up their financial assets, and to find better ways to educate seniors on how and where to look for good, reliable financial advice.
One recent study says seniors were bilked out of at least $2.9 billion in 2010; the CFPB says that's a 12 percent increase over 2008. As we've reported in Consumer Reports Money Adviser, this is a crime committed by strangers, "friends," and close relatives alike.
The CFPB, which is charged with protecting the interests of consumers in financial dealings, says it wants to hear from the public, especially people working directly with seniors. The bureau also is particularly interested in hearing about fraudulent, unfair, abusive, and deceptive practices targeting older veterans or military retirees. And it welcomes advice on how seniors can distinguish between legitimate financial adviser credentials, and those of questionable value.
Unfortunately, the CFPB doesn't appear to have got its act together to facilitate citizen reports of chicanery. On its blog page announcing the inquiry, the phrase "let us know about your experiences, good and bad" links to a bureaucratic-looking document, Docket CFPB-2012-0018 (PDF). On the bottom of page 1, that document tells readers to go to www.regulations.gov, which on its home page invites you to "Help improve Federal regulations by submitting your comments." But there's no way to click on those words to submit a comment. By clicking on "How do I submit a comment?" I learned that I had to locate a document in order to comment on it. I plugged "CFPB-2012-0018" into the search engine as per the directions in the bureaucratic document, and was told that the search couldn't find a match.
Maybe I'm not the brightest bulb, but my guess is that others may feel the same frustration in trying to submit their comments electronically. The CFPB press office did not return my e-mail inquiry about this process. But then, they don't make it easy to communicate either; they don't even don't offer a press telephone number.
Page 2 of the bureaucratic document says you can send a hard-copy letter by mail, hand delivery or courier to Monica Jackson, Office of the Executive Secretary, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 1700 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20552.
So, if you have a story of how you or a senior you know was bilked out of his or her money, I recommend you report it the old-fashioned way. I hope just Ms. Jackson is prepared for a mountain of mail.