Every minute the state Legislature and the governor drag their feet over legislation to protect the financial interests of vulnerable senior citizens is another minute that scam artists have to drain their bank accounts, take control of money used for living expenses, rob them of their savings and leave them destitute.
We’re talking about our elderly mothers and fathers, our grandparents, the kindly senior citizen who lives next door.
These are real people we all know and love who are victimized at a startlingly growing rate every single day.
According to AARP, elder financial exploitation increased more than 35 percent between 2010 and 2014.
About a third of the victims suffer from some sort of dementia.
The problem isn’t just exclusive to senior citizens, as we all pay the price for elder financial abuse. It costs senior citizens and state taxpayers $1.5 billion in a year, as not only do the seniors lose their own money, but society pays because it then has to take care of these individuals somehow, as well as support law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute offenders.
It’s a problem that continues to grow as our senior citizen population grows. And the state Legislature has an good opportunity to address it in the next few weeks.
One bill (S1093/A6099) would authorize banks, social services organizations and police to halt financial transactions when they believe a senior citizen is being exploited by someone else. The bill also would authorize financial institutions to provide records about suspected financial exploitation to law enforcement and social services organizations that might reveal a pattern of exploitation.
This bill has already passed the Senate.
Another bill, A6627, would establish the crime under state Penal Law of financial exploitation of a vulnerable elderly person or a person with a disability and provides for civil liability.
The bill, according the legislation, is designed to protect vulnerable adults from exploitation from people in special positions of trust, such as a caretaker, family member, friend or other acquaintances. It would include giving victims and their estates the ability to receive financial compensation through civil action against the offender.
AARP officials say that among the issues holding up the legislation are issues related to the degree of legal responsibility banks would have to incur such cases, as well as issues related to the training of tellers in identifying potential scams and the impact on staffing and financial ability of law enforcement agencies to collect and prosecute cases.
These issues are not insurmountable, if only the parties involved — including senior advocacy organizations, the governor’s office, bar associations and state agencies — could be brought to the table to work out the differences.
With five weeks to go before lawmakers adjourn for the summer, there’s plenty of time to work out a compromise.
Our senior citizens need more protection from financial scams. The clock is ticking.