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Judiciary Committee mulls bill aimed at reducing financial exploitation of the elderly

The letters A-A-R-P over two red squiggles: the logo of the organization.

State lawmakers will soon consider a bill that empowers banks to take action when they suspect that elderly customers are being financially exploited.

Older adults are more at risk from phone and email scams. They're also increasingly at risk of elder financial abuse. That's when a person they've trusted to take care of their money instead uses it for their own personal gain.

Tom Lacock of the Wyoming American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) told the committee it's estimated that one out of every five senior citizens has been victimized by financial crime.

"Closer to home, the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] tells us Wyomingites were hit for 7.8 million in fraud losses in 2021 with a median fraud loss of $500 per event," he said.

If bank employees see a suspicious transaction on an elderly customer's account, they can put a hold on it and potentially stop a bad actor from taking any more money. The new bill will protect bank employees from lawsuits that could stem from holding up people's withdrawals.

A very similar bill was introduced during the last session. It passed in the senate but died in the house. Senator Cale Case was the original bill's sponsor. He Zoomed into the Joint Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 12, to reiterate his support for the idea.

"The original bill was very sound and a great number of people have participated to try to make it a little bit better," Case said.

The bill garnered input or revisions by Wyoming AARP, the state's Department of Family Services and the Wyoming Bankers Association.

Lawmakers asked the Legislative Service Office to write a draft of the bill before the committee's next meeting in November.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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