Older adults get help against con artists
During a politically torturous session this year at the N.C. General Assembly, one bill sponsored by an area legislator drew bipartisan support to help protect older adults against con artists bent on mischief.
State Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, was the primary sponsor of the bill — now law — that increases the attention to fraud schemes targeting older adults. Senate Bill 140, passed by wide margins in the General Assembly, highlights fraud committed against older adults and promotes efforts to prevent it, according to the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
The legislation also bolsters requirements for reporting instances when fraud is suspected and prosecution of con artists who defraud or financially exploit the elderly, according to the nonpartisan research group based in Raleigh.
“The Federal Trade Commission says that people over 50 account for almost one-half of all consumer fraud complaints, and more than a third of all identify theft complaints. These figures are likely to go up quickly, as the huge Baby Boom generation started turning 65 in 2011,” said Mebane Rash, editor of the North Carolina Insight magazine published by the center.
In seven years, 820,000 more Baby Boomers will turn 65 in North Carolina, “meaning that’s 820,000 more targets for scammers,” Rash said.
Bingham said that he was inspired to seek the reforms because of older people in his district who were bilked by con artists. In some cases the amounts lost reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Bingham told The High Point Enterprise.
“You have a family where the husband dies. They have all their savings that they’ve worked for their whole life. Then you get some slick guy who tells them every kind of lie under the sun, but is very convincing,” Bingham said.
One reason that the laws needed to be updated is that many dated from 30 years ago before the advent of the Internet, social media and cell phones, Bingham said.
“In some ways, we were in the Dark Ages,” he said.
The reforms stem from the work of the Task Force on Fraud Against Older Adults, which makes recommendations to legislators. The task force brought together representatives of the financial industry, law enforcement and service agencies for older adults.
Bingham said that one benefit of the reform campaign has been getting different groups that have a role with older adults to come together and communicate more directly.
“This is something I’m as proud of as anything I’ve worked on,” said Bingham, a seven-term legislator from Denton.
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Senate Bill 140, to increase awareness of fraud targeting older adults, was introduced in the N.C. General Assembly earlier this year by Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson. The bill, now a law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, aims to increase the recognition, reporting and prosecution of people who would defraud or financially exploit disabled or older adults. The bill passed the Senate 47-0 and the House 111-1.
Sources: N.C. General Assembly website, N.C. Center for Public Policy Research