Fraud and financial abuse of the elderly is more widespread than you may realize. It may even be on the rise due to longer life expectancy and an aging population. Sadly, elder fraud and abuse appears in many forms, affecting millions of senior citizens and their families throughout the United States. These crimes go largely unseen because many seniors do not recognize when it happens to them or may be too ashamed to speak up. The State of Kansas and its lawmakers are standing up against elder law fraud and abuse by drafting measures that create harsher punishments for future offenders.
A new law signed by Governor Brownback of Kansas, is a “first step in the right direction,” to better protect Kansas senior citizens against fraud and financial abuse, said Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The law applies when a victim of financial abuse is over the age of 70-years-old and it “substantially enhances” penalties for stealing from an elderly person. If convicted of large-scale financial abuse, an offender could face more than 40 years in prison. Additionally, the new law makes it a criminal offense to misuse a trust or power of attorney to misappropriate an elder person’s life savings.
Percentage-wise, the fastest growing increase in crimes against seniors is financial exploitation. Financial abuse often involves a trusted family member, friend or caregiver. These trusted individuals will face harsher punishments after stealing or defrauding elders of their assets. One popular example of such a crime is when an in-home caregiver steals a senior citizen’s possessions. Cases can also involve individuals using power of attorney rights to siphon funds from the unsuspecting elder. In rare cases, unlicensed investment advisors or brokers use confusing tactics to sell unregistered products or fraudulent investments.
Kansas is the most recent state to expressly criminalize elder financial abuse, but in many states the punishments do not match the crime. There are still states without mandatory reporting laws regarding elder abuse. In 2012, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched “Smart Seniors,” a statewide elder abuse prevention program designed to help seniors identify potential scams and abuses. The program provides seniors with information they can use to stay safe and healthy.
If you or a loved have been a victim of financial abuse or fraud, contact an elder law attorney today. A skilled elder law attorney can afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.