Ohio has now joined a number of states that are ramping up their efforts to do something about the epidemic of elder financial abuse. Under this new law, the financial penalties are higher and will be used to fund enforcement.
The penalty for a person convicted of defrauding anyone over age 65 in the state of Ohio has now been mandated by a new law—full restitution plus a fine of up to $50,000. The hope is that thieves and scammers, as well as family members considering taking advantage of the elderly, will not take the risk. County agencies in charge of investigating elder abuse will receive the fine.
SF Gate’s article, “New Ohio law targets elder fraud as cases on the rise,” reports that more than 3,630 cases of elder exploitation were reported across Ohio in fiscal year 2018. That number includes 277 cases in Montgomery County, 191 in Butler County and 79 in Clark County.
The bill was sponsored by state Senator Steve Wilson, R-Maineville. He’s a retired CEO of LCNB National Bank.
“Day after day, we saw our seniors being ripped off,” Wilson said of his years working at the bank. “It is really an epidemic of people going after our most frail and fragile citizens. They can convince them they won the lottery and they haven’t bought a ticket.”
Ohio’s new law also adds certain financial workers to the list of individuals who are required to inform law enforcement, if they have reasonable cause to believe an elderly person has been abused, neglected or exploited.
The new law also mandates that the Ohio Attorney General distribute at least six public awareness publications every year that educate the public on the warning signs that exploitation might be occurring, how to report suspected elder fraud and resources available to prevent or remedy elder fraud or financial exploitation.
Senator Wilson said that employees of financial institutions see when a regular customer who comes in weekly to make a modest withdrawal suddenly takes out massive sums of money. The withdrawals are frequently based on the suspicious information the elderly individual gets from a family member or friend.
The new state law requires those working in banks to notify authorities, if they fear elder abuse fraud is happening. It also gives those employees information about resources for victims. Seniors lose about $2.9 billion a year to fraud, and just a bit more than 4% of cases are reported to authorities.
Elder financial abuse takes many different forms. In addition to family members taking advantage of vulnerable seniors, there are scammers who work by phone, pretending to be grandchildren in need of immediate financial assistance. There are thieves who say they are calling from the IRS or from Social Security offices and something bad will happen if the senior doesn’t send them a check or gift cards right away. The best thing to do when someone calls with any kind of urgent request, is to hang up.
Reference: SF Gate (December 26, 2018) “New Ohio law targets elder fraud as cases on the rise”