FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF SENIORS – Fact Sheet
What is it?
Elder financial abuse is a crime involving the wrongful taking of money or property, whether through fraud, scams, predatory caretakers or family, or others. It is committed by a person knowingly and willfully obtaining by deception, intimidation, or undue influence, the property of a vulnerable senior with the intent to deprive him or her of that property.
How prevalent is it?
In a variety of studies on this issue, it is estimated that somewhere between $3 and $6 billion are stolen from seniors every year. Furthermore, in these studies, only 3 to 4% of such these abuses are actually reported–96% are never reported! This crime is often under reported because of many issues: embarrassment, physical abuse, isolation, fear of retaliation, mild cognitive impairment and reluctance to blame once trusted friends and family members.
What is the Impact?
The loss of financial security directly influences seniors’ health and well being. Victims can no longer afford medical care, medications, housing, food, transportation and all other related aspects of independent and assisted living. Victims have no choice but to apply for already scarce government assistance at all levels: local, state and federal. In fact, a recent study found that elderly victims of financial abuse have a mortality rate three times higher than seniors who are not victims of such abuse.
Isn’t this illegal now?
Yes, financial elder abuse, if reported, can result in criminal prosecution. But, without mandatory reporting of financial elder abuse, cases go unreported, and consequently do not lead to criminal prosecution, which ultimately results in victims being left penniless.
What can be done?
Maryland legislators are considering a Bill– HB1257– legislation to require financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse. Under this proposed legislation, employees of financial institutions would be trained to identify potential abuse and immediately report it to the proper authorities. As it is clear that financial abuse often occurs in transactions at financial institutions, financial employees are well situated, and very often, the first line of defense to identify and deter financial abuse. Many times, a financial institution is the only detector of such an incident. Under the proposed legislation, financial institutions are not required to conduct independent investigations nor establish a certainty that financial abuse has, in fact, occurred. Employees need only suspect that something is amiss. The proposed legislation would grant immunity to institutions for the release of information to the local authorities such as the local adult protective services agency, the local law enforcement agency, or the states attorney.
Is this law working in other states?
Some 20 states have passed legislation known as “must report” statutes for financial institutions. California passed such legislation in 2005. After this legislation was passed in California, reporting of confirmed cases rose 16% in the first year. The statute was so successful, the 2010 California legislative session voted unanimously to make the statute permanent. (It was scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2013.)
Mandatory reporting of suspected financial abuse is a critical and much needed step to prevent and deter financial exploitation of seniors.
We need your help today. Please write or email:
Delegate Dereck E. Davis, Chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee,
House Office Building Room 231, 11 Bladen St.,Annapolis MD. 21401
Or email: [email protected]
Montgomery County Commission on Aging Fact Sheet February 2012