“Unfortunately, unscrupulous people sometimes prey on the vulnerable, attempting to commit fraud against them and endangering their finances and lives,” Sen. Addabbo said.
By Forum Staff
The State Senate recently approved legislation to authorize banks to refuse payment to suspicious individuals when there is reason to believe they may be attempting to steal from disabled or elderly New Yorkers.
Under the terms of the legislation, “vulnerable adults” are individuals who, because of mental and/or physical impairment, are unable to manage their own financial resources, or shield themselves from financial exploitation.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a co-sponsor of the bill, noted that according to a 2016 State Office of Children and Family Services Cost of Financial Exploitation Study, more than one-third of individuals exploited exhibited signs of dementia.
“As a long-time member of the Senate Aging Committee, I am deeply concerned that we safeguard the finances and well-being of seniors and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people sometimes prey on the vulnerable, attempting to commit fraud against them and endangering their finances and lives,” Addabbo said.
In addition to authorizing banks to refuse payment of moneys, the legislation requires dementia training as a critical component of bank employee education. More than five million Americans and almost 400,000 New Yorkers suffer from Alzheimer’s dementia, Addabbo noted, which hampers reasoning, judgment and decision making skills, and makes seniors more vulnerable to people looking to deceive them.
In the event a bank refuses to make a disbursement of funds, the bank must make an effort to notify, either orally or in writing, all interested parties and report the incident to the applicable local social services district. Lastly, Addabbo said, the legislation provides immunity to banks from civil, criminal or administrative liability due to their refusal to disburse funds, provided the institutions’ efforts were made in good faith.
“It is our moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves owing to such disabilities as Alzheimer’s disease and other impairments,” Addabbo added. He also said that more than 60 percent of financial exploitation crimes against seniors are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and should be able to trust, which includes family, friends, caregivers and professional business people.
The legislation, which was approved unanimously by the Senate, is now under review by the Assembly Committee on Aging.