Friday, 29 September 2023

Sen. Dodd introduces elder fraud protection bill

SACRAMENTO — Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, introduced legislation Thursday that would strengthen elder and dependent adult financial abuse protections by clarifying the duties of banks and financial institutions to safeguard against fraud.

“Banks must do a better job of preventing the most vulnerable Californians from getting ripped off,” Sen. Dodd said. “This bill clarifies that if these institutions assist in financial elder abuse — either knowingly or otherwise — they can be held liable. It will motivate them to detect predatory practices before victims are robbed of their resources, dignity and quality of life — losses from which they may never recover.”

Financial elder abuse cases are on the rise in California. The breadth of predatory practices is staggering, with victims coming from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Perpetrators can be family members, trusted professionals or large financial institutions. Such institutions are uniquely positioned to detect financial abuse and take action.

Unfortunately, the language of California’s current financial elder abuse law is unclear, leading to conflicting court rulings regarding the standard of proof for holding accountable a financial institution.

Now, when victims attempt to sue their bank for assisting in a scam, the institution can avoid responsibility by claiming it did not have actual knowledge of fraud.

But Sen. Dodd’s legislation, Senate Bill 278, would clarify that victims of financial elder abuse can continue to hold institutions accountable when they should have known of the fraud but negligently assisted in the transfer anyway.

The clarification would support victims of financial elder abuse in meeting their burden of proof.

SB 278 is supported by elder rights advocates and Consumer Attorneys of California.

“At a time when online and phone scams — specifically designed to defraud senior citizens — are running rampant, banks are on the front line as mandated reporters to protect seniors from devastating losses of their life savings,” said Kathryn Stebner, president-elect, Consumer Attorneys of California. “By adding a simple clarification to existing law, SB 278 will assure justice for countless victims of financial elder abuse.”

“Older Californians are the fastest growing segment of our population and face a particularly high risk of financial fraud and abuse,” said Caleb Logan of Elder Law & Advocacy and bill co-sponsor California Low-Income Consumer Coalition. “Fortunately, banks can prevent seniors from losing their life savings to a scam. SB 278 will clarify existing law to revitalize important safeguards against financial abuse. We are proud to support this important bill and applaud Sen. Dodd’s efforts on behalf of seniors throughout California.”

Sen. Bill Dodd represents the Third Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Solano, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties.

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