Ohio just passed a new state law targeting those who defraud and exploit the elderly. The bill increases financial penalties for theft from an older person, defined by state law as anyone over 65 years old. This new law has teeth. It mandates anyone convicted of defrauding an elderly person to pay them back every penny they stole. That’s in addition to a fine that can be as high as $50,000, reports the Dayton Daily News in the article “New Ohio law targets elder fraud as cases on the rise: Here’s how it works.”
The new law was recently signed into law by Governor John Kasich. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Steve Wilson, who commented that during his years at a local bank he saw seniors being ripped off every day.
The new law adds certain financial professionals to the list of people who are now obligated to tell authorities if they have a reasonable cause to suspect that a senior is being either abused, neglected or exploited.
There’s also an educational component to the new law. The Ohio Attorney General is now required, by law, to distribute at least six public awareness publications every year to educate the public on warning signs that elder abuse is taking place, how to report it if they suspect it and what resources are available to either prevent or remedy elder fraud or elder financial abuse.
It is often bank employees who are the first to notice when a regular customer’s patterns have changed. Someone who comes into the bank every week to withdraw a small amount of cash, suddenly makes a big withdrawal. The bank employee is now required to notify the authorities if they suspect that something is not right.
One smart feature of the new law: the fines will go to county agencies tasked with investigating elder abuse so the bill is self-funding and will pay for its implementation.
Common schemes now targeting seniors include scammers calling and pretending to be family members needing immediate financial help. Home repair scams often target the elderly. Earlier this year a man in Ohio targeted seniors claiming that he owned their homes using fake property deeds then tried to sell the properties to buyers.
The Ohio Job and Family Services Directors’ Association did a survey in 2017 and found that elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is on the rise in the Buckeye State. Unfortunately, Ohio is far from the only state seeing an increase in elder abuse.
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Reference: Dayton Daily News (Dec. 26, 2018) “New Ohio law targets elder fraud as cases on the rise: Here’s how it works”