Sunday, April 16, 2017
The New York Times ran a story a few days ago about preventing financial exploitation. Declaring War on Financial Abuse of Older People starts with the story of a woman who acts when she finds out her grandmother had lost her life savings. (Just fyi, her grandmother's case was featured in a story in the New York Times in 2015). The woman didn't stop with just her grandmother's case, however. First she pushed to get action for her grandmother. Then, the story explains, she "[became] an activist, traveling around her home state of Washington to lecture and testify about the financial exploitation of older Americans. She has also become a lobbyist, exhorting state lawmakers to pass legislation that would toughen penalties for people who take financial advantage of vulnerable older people like her grandmother."
The article notes the variations among state financial exploitation statutes and how some states don't have specific elder financial exploitation statutes
A number of states have laws like this on the books, but they vary widely. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks such laws, this type of financial abuse is an active topic in state capitals. Last year, 33 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, considered measures against the illegal or improper use of seniors’ money, property or assets, in addition to fraud or identity theft targeting the older people.
Some states have shored up their existing laws. Last year, Idaho revised its definition of neglect of vulnerable adults to include exploitation. Illinois extended the statute of limitations to seven years from three for prosecuting a person accused of taking financial advantage of an older person or a person with disabilities.
Also, last year, Alabama passed the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act, to add a layer of protection to existing laws by requiring brokers and investment advisers who believe a vulnerable adult is being exploited to notify the Human Resources Department and the Alabama Securities Commission.
In those states without the specific statutes, convictions come with lesser penalties than those with specific elder financial exploitation statutes. "Stiffer penalties are necessary to combat a growing drain on the savings of those 60 and over, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse, a federal clearinghouse. In 2015, in Washington state alone, there were nearly 8,000 complaints to adult protective services about financial exploitation, a more than 70 percent increase over 2010. And such crimes are likely to climb simply because the retiree population is growing."
The article also discusses efforts at the federal level, including the Elder Justice Act and the efforts of the Department of Justice.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for bringing the article to our attention. Congratulations to Naomi and her co-author Amy Ziettlow on the publication of their book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss.