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.
Thirty-three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico addressed financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable adults in the 2016 legislative session.
Alabama enacted the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act, requiring qualified individuals who reasonably believe that financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult may have occurred, been attempted, or is being attempted, to notify promptly the Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Securities Commission. Arizona now provides an exception to the confidentiality of the mediation process when disclosure is made by a court-appointed mediator who reasonably believes that a minor or vulnerable adult is or has been a victim of abuse, child abuse, neglect, exploitation, physical injury or a reportable offense. California enacted legislation requiring the state Department of Justice to develop and distribute an informational notice that warns the public about elder and dependent adult fraud, provides information regarding how and where to file complaints and requires the notice to be made available on the website of the attorney general. Connecticut broadens the circumstances when the Department of Social Services commissioner must disclose the results of an investigation into suspected elderly abuse, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment, but limits the type of information that may be disclosed.
Delaware adopted a reolution recognizing June 15, 2016, as Delaware Elder Abuse Awareness Day, encouraging all of Delaware’s citizens to learn about how to protect and nurture elderly citizens. Idaho amended existing law to revise the definition of neglect to include exploitation. Illinois enacted legislation providing that a prosecution for financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability may be commenced within seven years of the last act committed in furtherance of the crime.
New Hampshire changed the term "incapacitated" adult to "vulnerable" adult in the laws governing protective services to such adults. New Jersey established the New Jersey Task Force on Abuse of Persons who are Elderly or Disabled. Tennessee adopted a resolution directing the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability to conduct a study on the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. Vermont enacted legislation directing financial institutions in Vermont to make a vulnerable adult’s financial information available to an adult protective services investigator upon receipt of a court order or the investigator’s written request.
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Heather Morton is a program principal in Fiscal Affairs. She covers financial services, alcohol production and sales, and medical malpractice issues for NCSL.