Virginia law cracks down on scammers targeting the elderly

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new law aims to cut back on crime against some of the most vulnerable Virginians.

Seniors are frequent targets of financial scams — and they often know the perpetrators.

“We have seen way too many cases where elders or adults with disabilities are in a situation where many times a loved one will go about ripping them off and depleting their resources to a point of really devastating their lives,” said Jim Rothrock.

Rothrock is commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).

He said it can start as something as seemingly simple as offering to pay a bill for someone or use their credit card to go shopping for them before they’re taken advantage of.

“We really see those types of very friendly, helpful gestures becoming quite insidious and damaging,” he said.

Rothrock said victims often become embarrassed that they have been duped.

“That complicates their willingness to make a claim or to let law enforcement know because you’ve been bamboozled,” he said.

Under the new law, every report of adult financial exploitation that comes in to the state Adult Protective Services (APS) hotline or local departments of social services will be reported immediately to local law enforcement — no matter the amount of the money lost.

Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement it will help keep seniors safe and sends a strong message to potential scammers and fraudsters that “the Commonwealth takes these crimes seriously and will hold perpetrators accountable.”

DARS’ APS Division recently reviewed the costs of adult financial exploitation in the commonwealth. They found that elderly and vulnerable Virginians lose an estimated $28.2 million each year. Each case can range from $10 to $1 million.

But DARS said the true impact could be a lot greater. National estimates suggest just one out of every 44 cases of financial exploitation is reported to officials. That means Virginians victims could actually be losing as much as $1.2 billion a year.

And the number of potential victims is on the rise.

A recent population projection from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service shows that by 2030, nearly one in five Virginians will be at least 65 years old.

“So the numbers of people that are typically associated with this type of exploitation is increasing at an alarming rate,” said Rothrock. “And we must do something about it.”

The law went into effect July 1.

To use the toll-free hotline, call 888-832-3858.

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