Bill safeguards seniors from financial scams
Saturday, February 23, 2013 4:00 AM
According to the FBI, older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know who to call. Maybe they are ashamed at having been scammed or don't know they have been scammed.
Common scams are based on telemarketing, identity theft, advance fee schemes, mortgages and health care.
Hoosiers should welcome the recent efforts by Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) to create the Senior Consumer Protection Act. So far, his SB 382 has passed unanimously from the Senate Committee on Civil Law and is headed for the Senate floor.
The act widens the scope and penalty of frauds that affect people 60 years of age and older. Such financial exploitation of senior citizens would include control over properties or illegal misuse of assets through fraud, extortion or intimidation. Anyone committing those acts would have their assets frozen, would be issued an injunction and would pay the investigation or prosecution costs.
And although it would be tough for a defrauded senior to recoup all their losses, the bill would authorize the Indiana attorney general to seek means to protect seniors from dissipation of their assets. Civil penalties would increase from $50 to as much as $5,000 per violation. Stiffer penalties would be set for violations of trust, including spouses, children and attorneys.
An amendment was filed so that the bill would not apply to exploitation of seniors in relation to insurance coverage. That is regulated by the Indiana Department of Insurance, and victims can report a potential crime to that agency, which decides whether it should go to the attorney general.
Overall, Lanane's bill comes with the approval of Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
As Indiana's population ages, the likelihood of scam artists preying upon the elderly will increase. And it will become tougher for victimized seniors to get back all the money they've lost in a scam.
But Lanane's efforts should be applauded as an effective way to address a growing concern by taking care of the welfare of Indiana's current and future senior citizens.