ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A new Minnesota law gives bankers and financial advisers new tools to report suspicious activity tied to the accounts of potentially vulnerable seniors.

The Safe Seniors Financial Protection Act took effect Wednesday, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. It gives advisers the authority to delay certain financial transactions while they investigate, making the process of reporting suspicious activity easier.

Scams are a consistent problem, but "the most common type of financial exploitation is perpetrated by family members or loved ones or caretakers," which is why seniors often stay silent, said Sean Burke, public policy director at the Minnesota Elder Justice Center.

Only one out of 44 cases of senior financial exploitation gets reported, Burke estimated.

"Along with the shame of being exploited, oftentimes seniors and vulnerable adults are worried about what might happen to that loved one," he said. "Even though they know they've been abused or taken advantage of, they sometimes also want to protect that person."

The law gives financial professionals a detailed way to report concerns, including a timeline on when to approach their clients about suspicious activity and when to reach out to the state Commerce Department or other regulators.

Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said the new legislation lets financial professionals "have a candid conversation with their client, to hit that pause button and make sure that the financial decisions that the elderly or the senior vulnerable adult is making really are in their own best interest."

Deb Marquette is the manager of vulnerable adult programs for the Minneapolis-based Thrivent Financial. She said the new process also will encourage professionals to report fraud when they suspect it and ease fears of violating client trust.

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