Thiele Cracks Down on Crimes Against Elderly

Assembly passes legislation to protect seniors from scams and con artists

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced the Assembly passed a comprehensive package of bills to protect New York’s seniors against abuse and predatory financial practices. The Assembly’s legislation also aims to help increase awareness among the elderly community to avoid criminal schemes.

“Unfortunately, financial crimes against the elderly are a growing problem that has left countless seniors victims of scams,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Many con artists target the elderly and take advantage of their vulnerability, causing financial ruin. This package works to end this disgraceful practice, while ensuring seniors have the information they need to help identify scams before they wreak havoc on their lives.”

Increasing awareness about elder abuse

To address elder abuse and increase awareness among residents of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) and Neighborhood NORCs, the Assembly passed a measure that would amend the definition of eligible services to include educating seniors on how to recognize the signs of elder abuse and exploitation (A.7231).

“This measure would provide increased awareness about elder abuse, letting our seniors know there are resources available in our community to keep them safe from harm,” Thiele said.

Helping seniors avoid professional fraud

The Assembly passed a measure requiring advertisements for professionals that include a title or designation indicating knowledge or training in senior issues to also disclose the source of that title or designation (A.1787-A).

“It’s far too easy for con artists to scam the elderly by pretending to be experts in products and services that benefit seniors,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “This disclosure will help give seniors the peace of mind that the services being advertised are carried out by qualified professionals.”

Protecting seniors from financial exploitation

The Assembly’s package includes a measure that would require the Department of Financial Services to develop guidelines for reporting suspected financial exploitation of the elderly in consultation with the state Office for the Aging, state attorney general, representatives of the financial services industry, law enforcement, senior groups and district attorneys (A.1783-B). Under these guidelines, if a report of suspected financial exploitation is made, the financial institution making the report would be protected from any civil liability.

“One of the most devastating instances of elder abuse is financial exploitation,” Thiele said. “Giving financial institution employees guidance on what constitutes suspected financial exploitation and encouraging them to flag and report suspicious activity without the worry that they will be sued is an important step to protect seniors’ hard-earned money.”

Additionally, the package includes a bill that would offer options for seniors to be protected in the event of suspected financial exploitation (A.7345-B). Under this measure, the Department of Financial Services would be required to develop a program that seniors would be able to opt into to receive additional protection. If a senior chooses to participate, and there is an instance of suspected financial exploitation, the financial institution would be required to make a report to law enforcement and adult protective services.

“Financial institutions have ready access to evidence of exploitation of senior clients’ accounts that could stop many criminals in their tracks,” Thiele said. “However, there are many seniors who don’t want law enforcement or outside sources involved, as the suspect may be a family member. This measure would establish the option for seniors to choose greater financial protection, while maintaining the privacy of those who do not.”