There will now be higher criminal penalties for felonious scams that target the elderly and disabled, thanks to State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.
Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) passed Senate Bill 69, which would institute tougher penalties on Class 2 felony offenses against an elderly person or a person with a disability. It was signed into law last week.
“There are scammers preying on our seniors,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “To discourage this awful epidemic, we must put regulations in place to protect the financial well-being of Illinois’ seniors and people with disabilities.”
This new law expands the Class 2 felony offense of theft by deception over $5,000 to include offenses committed against a person with a disability.
It also clarifies that consent cannot be used as a defense in a case of financial exploitation of an elderly person or person with a disability if the accused knew or should have known that the victim lacked the ability to consent.
Nearly 5 million older Americans are financially exploited. While scammers are often to blame, more than half of cases involve exploitation by a family member. A 2014 study by Mark Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital found that almost 60 percent of cases involve a perpetrator who is a family member.
Lachs also reported that elder abuse victims—including those who suffer financial exploitation—die at a rate three times faster than those who haven’t been abused.
“This new law will give our law enforcement the additional means to act against those attempting to exploit the elderly in Illinois,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “These restrictions will help make scammers think twice before attempting to manipulate seniors and people with disabilities.”
Senate Bill 69 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.