Financial crimes and exploitation can involve the illegal or improper use of a senior citizen's funds, property or assets, as well as fraud or identity theft perpetrated against older adults. While exact statistics on how often financial crimes against the elderly occur are not available, it is widely believed to be underreported by the victims. A recent study published by MetLife Mature Market Institute estimates the financial loss by victims of elder financial crimes and exploitation exceeds $2.9 billion dollars annually.
In the 2013 legislative session, 29 states and the District of Columbia had legislation to address financial crimes and exploitation against the elderly and other vulnerable adults. Twenty states enacted legislation or adopted resolutions in 2013. For example, Alabama created the crimes of elder abuse and neglect in the first, second, and third degree as well as the crimes of financial exploitation of an elderly person in the first, second, and third degree. Arizona now specifies that a vulnerable adult is not exploited by a transfer of assets for the primary purpose of obtaining or maintaining eligibility for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Supplemental Security Income or Medicare benefits or Veterans’ Administration programs if the transfer of assets is between the person and: (a) the person’s spouse; (b) the person’s disabled child; or (c) a trust for the benefit of the person’s spouse or disabled child. Colorado enacted legislation that requires specified professionals to report abuse or exploitation of people 70 years and older. Georgia expanded protection of disabled adults and elder persons in long-term care facilities. Hawaii now requires financial institutions to report instances of suspected financial abuse of an elder directly to the appropriate county police department and the Department of Human Services. Illinois enacted legislation to createa statewide centralized abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, and self-neglect hotline for adults with disabilities and older adults.
Maryland altered penalties for a conviction of extortion, malicious destruction of property, obtaining property or services by bad check, credit card fraud, identity fraud, state health plan fraud, and exploitation of a vulnerable adult involving a value at or over $1,000. Minnesota allowed offenses for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult to be aggregated over a six-month period. North Carolina allowed district attorneys to petition the court to freeze the assets of a defendant charged with financial exploitation of an elder adult or disabled adult and to establish a procedure to petition for the freezing or seizure of the defendant's assets. Washington enacted legislation to allow the Department of Social and Health Services, the Certified Professional Guardian Board, and the Office of Public Guardianship to share information contained in reports and investigations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.
The legislation included in the chart below addresses creating specific crimes and criminal penalties, reporting requirements and access to records in elder financial exploitation investigations.
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