Some financial institutions say they already watch out for suspicious activity and will intervene.

DeAlmeida of Hamilton Bank says that last week an elderly customer wanted to close a certificate of deposit before maturity and take home his $100,000 — in cash. He says the teller sent word to a superior and bank officials talked the man out it. The bank also alerted the man's son, who is on his father's account.

Dorothea Stierhoff, spokeswoman for MECU, says the Baltimore credit union has referred cases of suspected elder financial abuse to authorities. MECU also last fall updated its software program to recognize potential elder abuse, she says.

Of course, adults can do anything they want with their cash and poor money management is not the same as financial exploitation.

But that's where training comes in. The new law requires financial institutions to train staffers to recognize the signs of financial abuse.

Myers says signs include large wire transfers; lots of electronic withdrawals by, say, an 85-year-old who never used an ATM before; steep drops in account balances that the elderly person can't explain; or customers who seem afraid of the person who brought them to the bank.

It's likely that some older customers are not going to like this extra attention. DeAlmeida already anticipates that some will tell the bank to mind its own business.

"I would rather err on the side of caution," he says. "If we get yelled at, we get yelled at."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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