Fintech is permeating all parts of the financial industry, from advisors’ software to robo services, and it is increasingly being used to help prevent or detect financial exploitation and abuse, especially among the elderly, who are the most vulnerable because many face cognitive decline and dementia, according to financial and medical leaders.

Using financial technology is one way to curb this, says Liz Loewy, general counsel and senior vice president of industry relations for EverSafe, a company that specializes in detecting financial abuse and exploitation. Technology can detect potential problems and see patterns quicker than a person, whether that person is the victim, a financial advisor or anyone else watching an account closely, she says.

While she was with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Loewy was the lead prosecutor in one of the most notorious elder financial abuse cases ever. She obtained a conviction in the case of philanthropist Brooke Astor, who was defrauded by her son, Anthony Marshall, in a case that made front page news. At the time, Astor was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Jason Karlawish, associate director of the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, says the financial services and banking industries are on the front lines of screening for cognitive impairment. One of the first signs of cognitive decline is the change in a person’s capacity to manage his or her finances. Cognitive impairment is what makes the elderly susceptible to financial exploitation.

But to identify financial exploitation, advisors and banks need to be able to spot patterns in withdrawals and anomalies in financial accounts, things often invisible to people, Loewy says.

“Scammers do not just take one huge amount from one account,” she says. “They start small and steal from different accounts at different institutions that are owned by the same vulnerable person. They start with amounts that seem acceptable to the advisor or bank, and they can go through a lot of money before anyone spots it.”

But technology can see things the human eye misses, Loewy adds, and it can send out an alert about suspicious behavior to the account holder, financial advisor, bank or someone who has been designated by the account holder.

“The technology is already available to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect suspicious behavior,” Loewy says. “For instance, if a pension check that comes in on a certain day each month is missing or the amount of cash used in a month changes, an alert can be sent to a trusted advocate named by the account holder.”

Several of the wirehouses and large broker-dealers are aggressively pursuing these new technologies to protect their customers. Baby boomers are also looking to this kind of technology to make their lives easier, she says.

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