Money and the Law: Laws seek to protect seniors from financial ‘exploitation’ | Company

Financial abuse of the elderly – nowadays more properly called financial “exploitation” of the elderly – has increased as the elderly population has grown. And it continues to be that some people, as they age, become more vulnerable to exploitation due to the ravages of time (and perhaps social isolation).

Additionally, it continues to be the case that people who want to steal an elderly person’s money have an abundance of tools at their disposal. This includes threats and intimidation; denial of health care or affection; falsified documents; intentional misinformation; unauthorized use of credit and debit cards; and fraudulent substitution of beneficiaries on financial accounts (life insurance policies, pension plans, wills, trusts, custodial accounts, beneficiary deeds).

No one knows the magnitude of the losses associated with financial abuse of older adults, as much goes unreported. This is because the exploiters are often trusted family members, caregivers, or trustees; victims are afraid or embarrassed to report; the exploitation is discovered only after the death of the victim; and family members do not want to admit that there has been exploitation under their watch.

Nevertheless, there seems to be general agreement among experts who study this sort of thing that annual losses due to financial abuse of older adults run into the billions of dollars.

The Colorado Legislature has attempted to address this problem many times and on many fronts. In 2010, the Legislature enacted a law requiring financial institutions — banks, credit unions, and credit unions — to offer “at-risk” adult customers the opportunity to sign a consent to disclosure form. information. This form, once signed, would allow a financial institution to turn over account statements to law enforcement and social service agencies if the financial institution suspects that its customer is a victim of financial abuse. (This law originally set 60 as the age at which a person became “at risk”. The age at risk has now been raised to 70.)

Then, in 2013, the legislature created a law requiring those involved in health care, law enforcement, fire protection, social work, banking, veterinary medicine, traffic control services animals, government functions and many other professions and occupations to be subject to mandatory reporting. obligation.

If they observe the exploitation of an “at-risk senior” or have reasonable grounds to believe that an at-risk senior has been financially exploited or is at risk of being financially exploited, they must report the matter to a public health agency. enforcement within 24 hours. . Willful failure to report is an offence. Once a report is filed, law enforcement and social service agencies are expected to spring into action to investigate and protect the victim.

And, in 2018, the legislature amended Colorado’s criminal code to increase penalties for “abusing” elders of all kinds. This legislation made financial abuse of the elderly a Class 5 to Class 3 felony, depending on various circumstances and the amount stolen. The legislation also created strict restitution requirements and monetary surcharges. These surtaxes are paid into a public fund intended to further support elder abuse prevention activities.

If you want to learn more about elder financial abuse and other legally recognized forms of elder abuse, a good place to start is the El Paso County Office of Adult Protective Services. His very informative website can be found at

Although a complex network of government agencies is now in place to address issues of elder abuse, family members are still in the best position to prevent or uncover elder financial abuse (unless they are not the source of the exploitation).

Jim Flynn is with the Colorado Springs company of Flynn & Wright LLC. You can contact him at [email protected]

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