Friday, October 21, 2016

Former prosecutor, a Merion native, fights back at elder financial abuse

Former prosecutor, a Merion native, fights back at elder financial abuse

Merion native Elizabeth Loewy is general counsel of start-up Eversafe, which monitors seniors' financial accounts against abuse and theft.
She won a conviction of socialite/philanthropist Brooke Astor's son for financial elder abuse. How could Liz Loewy, Merion native and high-profile prosecutor, top that?
The University of Pennsylvania grad and former attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office joined EverSafe, a company that helps stop financial crimes against the elderly.
The start-up technology firm uses computer algorithms to monitor seniors' bank accounts, brokerage statements, and cash withdrawals.
"Elder abuse can be completely changed for the better through technology," Loewy said.
EverSafe offers "financial caregiving," she said. Rather than going over to Mom and Dad's house to check on their finances, or emailing bank statements, "this is a way to do it remotely."
TrueLink Financial, a California firm that offers financial services to the elderly, estimates seniors lost $36 billion in 2015 alone, and 17 percent of those age 65 or older report being taken advantage of financially, according to the Investor Protection Trust.
Theft of seniors' significant assets "promises to be the crime of the 21st century," said Naomi Karp, head of the Office of Older Americans within the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Criminals can sniff out dementia faster than doctors can. One million Americans are turning 60 every month, and it is forecast that by 2040 there will be more Americans over 80 than there are preschoolers.
Loewy joined EverSafe after a 29-year career fighting elder abuse - a crime she believes society will recognize one day as just as important as domestic violence.
"Elder abuse falls into two buckets: The first is unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts, and the second is elder financial exploitation," she says.
Loewy, 58, was a teenager when she volunteered to serve Wheels on Meals.
"At first, I was scared, but I ended up sitting there and chatting with a lot of them for a good long time. Then I loved them."
After being wait-listed at University of Pennsylvania Law School, she matriculated at Albany Law School and worked for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for a summer.
"That changed my life," Loewy said. "I was completely inspired" working for the man everyone in the office referred to as "The Boss." She stayed with the Manhattan DA's Office for 29 years, and in 1989 founded one of the first anti-elder abuse units in the country.
"A lot of domestic violence involved older people," she recalled.
Her 2009 conviction of Anthony Marshall, Astor's only son and heir to her fortune, for elder abuse and neglect put Loewy on the front page of many newspapers.
She was recruited to EverSafe as general counsel by founder Howard Tischler, a successful entrepreneur whose own mother had been scammed. Tischler learned that the problem was far broader than his mother's experience.
Elder financial abuse takes many forms, including petty theft, misguided home repairs, and often-inappropriate products such as reverse mortgages, annuities, and high-fee credit cards. Family members, caregivers, friends, financial professionals, and even bank employees are among the perpetrators.
Loewy's father, Robert, 90, and mother, Lila, 84, are EverSafe customers.
"My dad was almost a victim of two scams - a phony IRS phone call demanding back taxes and the grandparent scam. Luckily, he was smart enough to move on. But he was really alarmed by the call from a guy claiming to be my son, asking my dad for money." (She believes the scam caller probably put the names together through Facebook.)
EverSafe offers up to 70 alerts across institutions - different bank and investment accounts, and credit reports, for example - and monitors for identity theft.
"This technology really fills in the regulatory gaps," she said. Only 26 states require financial-services professionals to report to Adult Protective Services agencies and law enforcement when they suspect older or vulnerable clients are being defrauded.
"Scam artists are smart," Loewy said. "They don't take $20,000 from one account if they have access to more. The really smart ones know the banks have internal systems activated at $10,000, so they take a few thousand across accounts to not trigger alerts."
Has EverSafe prevented crimes? Loewy thinks so.
"An older woman was about to be kidnapped by an acquaintance who insinuated herself into the older woman's life. EverSafe was able to detect suspicious transactions" in the older woman's bank account and alert family members.
"This technology will get better if we yell loud enough," she said. "It's like a car alarm for your financial accounts. After car alarms came into wide use, the auto industry got wise and produced all cars with alarms."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting.
Your comment will be held for approval by the blog owner.