Hey all, Jenn here from the AARP Illinois Communications team. In this post I wanted to tell you about some of the legislative work that AARP staffer Ryan Gruenenfelder has been doing down in Springfield. I spoke with Ryan yesterday about House Bill 1689 – a bill that goes into effect in Illinois this month which addresses an issue that he’s been working on for about 3 years – cracking down on those sad, sad souls who try to steal Social Security checks and any other sort of money from the elderly and disabled.
Jenn: “So Ryan how widespread is this problem? Are there a lot of people out there defrauding their friends, relatives, and the people they’re supposedly taking care of?”
Ryan: Actually, yes - a study done by MetLife estimates that nationwide about 2.9 billion dollars are lost to elder financial abuse each year. That could be anything from people outright stealing Social Security checks to forging signatures, to taking advantage of a person who has Alzheimer’s, and getting them to write checks out. More often than not, it’s a family member or a relative – someone that the person trusts.
Jenn: “What does the new Illinois law do exactly?”
Ryan: “The new law increases penalties for such financial exploitation, in many cases making the crime a Class 1 or Class 2 felony, depending on how much money is involved. Which could mean 3-15 years of prison time plus restitution (which often goes unpaid).”
Jenn: “What else do people need to know about this issue?”
Ryan: “It seems like everyone knows someone that this has happened to – but it rarely gets reported. Friends or relatives or even bystanders who see this happening need to report it to the police – and be persistent about it. Get them to take a report so that the case can be prosecuted by the State’s Attorney. We need to get to a point where this is taken as seriously as child abuse or other serious crimes.”
Photo Credit: Abardwell on Flickr