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Jul 2024

New Bill Targets Financial Scams Aimed At the Elderly

By Eric San Juan
Scammers target the elderly to the tune of more than $3.4 billion a year, according to the FBI’s 2023 Elder Fraud Report – and it’s getting worse each year.
It’s with that in mind, the 9th District legislative team of Senator Carmen Amato, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, and Assemblyman Gregory Myhre have introduced legislation to toughen penalties for those who target the elderly, and to enact into law protections specifically geared towards protecting older New Jerseyans.
“Last year, we saw a 350% increase in cryptocurrency-related investment scams attributed to older adults alone,” FBI special agent Rebecca Keithly told ABC News last year. “That was the biggest increase among all age demographics and all scams.”
Keithly said tech support scams are among the most common. “The tech support scammer informs the victim that their accounts are at risk for being hacked,” she said. “And the next player in the scam is somebody purporting to be from a financial institution. And then they tell the victim, 'Your [financial] accounts have been hacked.'”
Before you know it, they’ve earned your trust and taken your money.
Darius Kingsley, head of Consumer Banking Practices at Chase Bank, said victims are often too embarrassed to report that they’ve been scammed.
"With scams, it's such a personal thing and it's just so mortifying and embarrassing that people don't want to admit it," he told USA Today.
Because they’re so hard to track, and often originate from overseas, scammers continue to target older Americans. The 9th District Legislative team hopes to at least somewhat stem the tide, especially when it comes to direct caregivers.
“Elder fraud continues to be a serious criminal concern in the state and, as a large segment of our constituents are senior citizens, we want to enhance protections under the law to combat this reprehensible crime committed against vulnerable persons,” Amato, Rumpf and Myhre said in a written statement.
The team introduced S-1887 and its assembly companion, A-4593, last month to address the issue.
Their proposed legislation would make exploiting the elderly for less than $200 punishable by up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, and enact penalties of three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both, for amounts of up to $75,000. These would be considered fourth and third degree crimes, respectively.
Thefts of over $75,000 would retain their current penalties: second degree crimes punishable with five to 10 years in prison, fines up to $150,000, or both.
“The provisions of our legislation would apply to circumstances when a person in a position of trust compels or induces an ‘elderly person’ to deliver property to the person in a position of trust or to a third person by means of fraud, false promise, extortion or intimidation,” the team wrote.
This would not be limited to phone or Internet scammers. It would extend to caregivers who take advantage of the elderly, including professional aides, acquaintances, and others in a position of trust.
Amato and the team’s proposal is aimed at protecting those who are most vulnerable, specifically “any person who is 60 years of age or older and is suffering from either a disease or infirmity associated with advanced age, or a mental disease.”
“State law should absolutely be strengthened to crack down on criminals who deliberately prey on seniors to scam them out of their money or possessions,” they wrote.
As this story goes to press, the bills are currently in committee and are waiting to be approved for a vote by the full Senate and Assembly.