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New law helps protect seniors from unscrupulous relatives

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The state will soon have more authority to protect older Hoosiers whose family members are taking advantage of them for financial gain.

The General Assembly has expanded a senior protection law to cover situations that don’t meet the definition of theft or fall under other fraud laws.

The law—pushed by Attorney General Greg Zoeller—is meant to help seniors fight back against more subtle manipulation that happens when a caregiver, friend or loved one uses intimidation—but not force—to gain access to money, credit cards or other resources.

It takes effect on July 1.

“It means Hoosier senior citizens are more thoroughly safeguarded from these fraudulent claims and that a lifetime of savings and investments remain secure,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

Already, state agencies can investigate insurance or financial fraud involving companies, while the attorney general handles other consumer protection cases involving transactions.

But Deputy Attorney General David Miller told lawmakers earlier this year that there remains a gap in cases that typically involve family and caregivers, who might threaten to stop helping, visiting or caring for seniors who won’t help them financially.

“We’re basically in a position where unless we can see that there’s actually been a theft of assets, we’re helpless to do anything,” Miller said.

Groups advocating for seniors—including the AARP and the Area Agencies on Aging—backed the law. The Adult Protective Services Agency reported that in 2011, seniors were the victims in 1,300 cases involving financial exploitation.

The numbers increased 80 percent between 2001 and 2011.

And a national survey by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust found that financial fraud committed by family members and caregivers outpace those by strangers.

“We have seen an uptick in the number of our members who are victims of financially-devastating frauds, scams and intimidation ploys,” said Katie Moreau, spokeswoman for AARP Indiana. “This is particularly detrimental to seniors who don’t have the time to rebound from financial setbacks.”

She said the group plans to alert its 850,000 members statewide about the new law.

The new Indiana law allows the attorney general to file a civil action against a person who financially exploits a senior and allows the court to freeze his or her assets, issue an injunction to protect the senior, and order repayment and additional restitution.

A court can also order $5,000 fines, which can increase to $10,000 if a judge finds the violation was committee by a person the senior trusted.

Seniors who feel victimized—whether by deception or intimidation or other means—can contact the attorney general’s office, Adult Protective Services or local Area Agencies on Aging.

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  • What If?
    This is awesome. Seniors are so vulnerable to family members. I personally know of 3 seniors who have been taken advantage of by family members within the last 6 months. Here's the problem though, what if the mental capacity of these seniors is such that they do not know that they are being taken advantage of? Can other people report the violators?

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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