Financial abuse of vulnerable populations, including senior citizens, has been identified as a growing problem across the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that 2.6 million people over the age of 65 have had their identities stolen; hundreds of thousands have had their credit cards or bank accounts misused, and 200,000 have had bank accounts opened in their names. Such financial abuse is often perpetrated by family members.
On April 21, the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary approved a bill designed to protect senior citizens in the District from such abuse. The “Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults and the Elderly Amendment Act of 2016” will make it possible to prosecute those who engage in the financial exploitation of elderly or incapacitated persons, including those who do so by exerting “undue influence.” The bill defines undue influence as the use of mental, emotional, or physical coercion that adversely affects the free will or judgment of a vulnerable adult or elderly person.
“Vulnerable citizens need to know the city is ready to protect them,” said Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the committee. He hailed the bill as “an important step in ensuring that financial security is not lost to theft.”
The bill will come before the full council for a vote in May.