Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Vulnerable Adult Initiative: Final Report 2008

Financial Exploitation Work Group

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The Financial Exploitation Work Group took on the following issues identified at the summit:

  • The current response time and coordination of agencies, law enforcement and prosecution is too slow to properly serve victims of abuse.
  • Better training and education is needed in both the public and private sectors to aid in prosecutions. Specifically, programs are needed that focus on how to report and investigate financial crimes.
  • Better partnerships are needed between banks and the police in order to identify and report financial exploitation.
  • Seniors have a fear of guardianships and a loss of independence, which chills reporting.
  • Some organizations and individuals, including family members, are reluctant to report financial crimes.
  • Financial exploitation is difficult to detect, prevent and prosecute because of the difficulty in getting access to records and documents.


1) Amend the statute to simplify the definition of financial exploitation. The Vulnerable Adult Statute defines financial abuse in a way that creates barriers to investigation and protective activities.

2) Draft legislation that would create a Protective Power of Attorney. This document should contain more procedural and substantive protections for the vulnerable adult. To date, power of attorney forms have often been used to financially exploit vulnerable adults. This committee drafted a sample of what the new form should look like.

3) Engage financial institutions, the Department of Financial Institutions and law enforcement with the goal of creating step-by-step protocols and guidelines for setting up accounts and dealing with suspected abuse. Education — even mandatory education for bank tellers — should be considered. At present, joint bank accounts are used by family members and acquaintances to exploit vulnerable adults.

4) Expand standardized education programs to be used by financial institutions statewide. These programs will help employees of financial institutions spot and appropriately react to financial exploitation. Employees at financial institutions have communicated a strong desire to respond to the exploitation they witness, but suggest that some fail to do so due to a lack of training, knowledge and specific guidance.

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