"An Act establishing the office of elder fraud and assistance; and relating to fraud involving older Alaskans. "
"This bill authorizes OPA to bring civil enforcement actions for injunctive and other relief for fraud committed against older Alaskans."
- Rep. Chenault
Elder financial abuse is a crime that is on the rise and is a growing problem in Alaska. Financial abuse takes many forms, including credit card fraud, real estate scams, identity theft and burglary. Even though reports of elder financial abuse are growing, estimates indicate that only 1 in 25 of these cases are reported. A study conducted by The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) found that for every reported case of elder abuse, another five cases went unreported.
Elderly victims of financial abuse can suffer declining physical and emotional well being, depression, reliance on public benefits and even death. A possible reason why elders are targeted is because seventy percent of the nation's net worth is owned by those aged 50 and older. Other explanations include the fact that older people are more trusting, that they may not realize the value of their assets, and that they are easily identifiable as victims. In addition, they are more likely to have conditions or disabilities that make them easy targets. They are also less likely to take action against their abusers, especially if the abuser is a family member. Abusers may also recognize that older people who are in extremely poor health may not survive long enough to follow through legally.
To combat fraud against elders, effective state responses require collaboration by a range of state and local agencies, including law enforcement, adult protective services, victim service agencies and private partners. However, coordination remains a major challenge and the lack of interagency coordination means that victims remain hidden. This bill would help ensure the necessary coordination among agencies to address this problem.
HB 399 establishes an office of elder fraud and assistance within the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) to investigate complaints of fraud committed against elder residents of Alaska. This bill authorizes OPA to bring civil enforcement actions for injunctive and other relief for fraud committed against older Alaskans.