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[r29] Column: Protecting Senior Citizens
Start Date: 4/3/2013Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 4/3/2013End Time: 11:59 PM
Entry Description
Protecting Senior Citizens

According to Congressional statistics, people lose an estimated $4 billion in mail scams and $40 billion in telemarketing fraud each year in the United States. I have fielded numerous calls over the years regarding recent scams from concerned constituents. Usually, it is a telephone scam targeting senior citizens in our community to buy into the “next big thing” or an impersonator trying to access banking information. The Legislature has done a lot to provide tools for senior citizens to safeguard their finances and sensitive information, but it is not always strangers who are trying to take senior citizens’ money and assets.

Unfortunately, it is more common than most of us realize that the person trying to exploit a senior citizen is someone they trust. For this reason, we are currently discussing legislation to strengthen the protections against fraud and exploitation. Senate Bill 382 would implement the Senior Consumer Protection Act and give the Attorney General a better way to protect senior citizens from financial exploitation. 

The Attorney General’s office receives most of its calls from seniors even though this issue is not limited only to this group. In committee this session, an example was brought up of a woman who came into a law office because her son was intimidating her by explaining all the things he does for her on a daily basis, and now she needs to help him financially. This issue is not covered under theft or guardianship laws, so it is more difficult for an attorney to prosecute the individual to the extent of the crime. 

A senior does not always know what to do in these cases because it is a family member or a person they trust. This legislation would give them a way to defend themselves. It will allow the Attorney General and lawyers to bring action against a person who financially exploits a senior. The court may freeze a person's assets, issue an injunction and order the payment of investigation and prosecution costs. 

In the cases where someone is convicted of knowingly violating exploitation laws, the court may increase restitution up to three times the amount of damages or the value of the property. However, if the violation was committed by a person in a position of trust, the court may issue a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. A civil penalty of up to $15,000 per violation may be sought if the person violates the terms of an injunction.

The Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging deals firsthand with these issues as they combat financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. They support the measure as it will enhance protections for at-risk older adults and a pathway to recover stolen assets.

There are a lot of other scams out there, all trying to take Hoosiers’ hard-earned money. Sadly, some people try to take advantage of their own family members. As the bill continues to work its way through the legislative process, I am confident that we can come up with a solution to further protect our most vulnerable citizens from despicable acts of fraud and exploitation. 

There are multiple resources available for senior citizens wanting to protect their information or to alert Hoosiers of potential dangers at http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/. The ID Theft Prevention Toolkit was created to assist victims with correcting their records following a scam and to help consumers in taking the necessary steps to minimize the risk of identity theft. The toolkit also allows Hoosiers to easily keep an accurate inventory of financial information, so creditors can be contacted quickly if any information is ever lost or stolen. This is a great, preventative tool that will hopefully limit the number of Hoosiers who will become victims of fraud.

The House Republicans have also written a publication for senior citizens addressing telephone and internet scams, identity theft and other related information that can be viewed www.in.gov/legislative/house_republicans/publications.html. I strongly encourage members of our community to review these links to be safeguarded from criminals.

-30-
Contact Information:
Name: Nicholas Goodwin
Phone: 3172329831
Email: ngoodwin@iga.in.gov
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Entry Type:
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Entry Category:
  • Alerts and Notification
  • Announcements
  • IN.gov Category:
  • Government
  • Agency Name
    House of Representatives Republican Caucus

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