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Bill Would Strengthen Senior Consumer Protection

The attorney general's office says complaints of financial exploitation of senior citizens increased by more than nine percent last year.

Greg Zoeller

Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU News

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says more needs to be done to protect senior citizens from fraud.

State lawmakers say legislation moving through the General Assembly will strengthen Indiana’s consumer protection efforts of senior citizens. Legislators and the Attorney General say they have found a gap in the law they hope the bill will address.

Last year, the number of consumer complaints of financial exploitation received by Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office increased by more than nine percent among Hoosiers age 55 and older.

With the average age of Hoosiers on the rise, Zoeller says he is expecting that number to continue to increase. State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) says he and Zoeller have crafted legislation to address a shortfall in the state’s senior consumer protection efforts.

“The senior may have, on the surface, voluntarily given up control of the property, for example, but it might be under false pretense,” Lanane says. “It might be because of the intimidation factor. But it’s hard to get, say, the local prosecutor to come in and assist because they don’t feel it rises to the level of a crime.”

Lanane’s bill provides greater avenues in civil court for seniors to recover money and property, including increased participation by the Attorney General. Zoeller says these cases often occur between family members or caregivers and his office can help mediate those disputes before they get to court.

“But we need to have some remedy to go to court and have a judge make a judicial determination. That’s what’s really missing that this statute would address,” Zoeller says.

The legislation already passed the Senate and is now up for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee as early as this week.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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