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California’s Efforts in Combating Financial Fraud Against Seniors

More senior citizens (those aged 65 and older) live in California than any other state. And the state’s overall population is aging too, with the percentage of individuals aged 60 years and older expected to increase more than three times as fast as the general population over the next roughly 30 years. Fortunately for seniors, California has long been a pioneer in laws directed to the protection of elders and  California law provides numerous enhanced remedies and protections for seniors. To take advantage of California’s laws and other efforts to combat financial fraud against seniors, please consider speaking with a California financial elder abuse attorney. 

Laws Targeting Financial Elder Abuse 

Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act

The signature anti-elder abuse law in California is the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The Act applies to all three major forms of elder abuse — physical elder abuse, elder financial abuse, and psychological elder abuse — and covers elders living in the community and in long-term care facilities. The Act defines “financial elder abuse” as occurring whenever a person: 

  • Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
  • Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
  • Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder by undue influence

Cal. Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15610.30.

This definition is broad enough to cover virtually every form of financial elder abuse, fraud, and exploitation. The Act also authorizes private causes of action and allows for enhanced damages. Where a plaintiff proves by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant is liable for financial abuse, the court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in addition to all other damages to which the plaintiff may be entitled. 

Other Civil Laws 

There are a variety of other civil laws that target financial elder abuse as well. Some of the most commonly used include: 

  • Business & Professions Code Sections 17200 and 17500: Apply to unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices and false or misleading advertising and allow for litigants to obtain restitution and injunctions
  • Civil Code Section 3345: Applies to actions by or on behalf of senior citizens to redress unfair or deceptive acts or unfair methods of competition and allows the court to award up to three times the amount of damages under certain circumstances. 
  • Government Code Section 12650: Applies to false claims (such as defrauding Medicare and Medicaid) and allows the court to award up to three times the amount of damages and civil penalties of between $5,500 and $11,000 per violation. 

A California financial elder abuse lawyer can advise you on how best to use these laws to your advantage. 

Criminal Laws

The victims of financial elder abuse and their loved ones are not limited to civil recourse against abusers; California also has a variety of criminal laws on the books that target fraud against the elderly. Under Penal Code Sections 368(d) and (e), a person who commits theft, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft against an elderly person and the value of the property obtained is $950 or less may face a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year or both. Where the value of the property taken is over $950, the perpetrator may face a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to four years or both. 

Mandated Reporters 

California takes reports of elder abuse seriously, and one of the ways it encourages reporting is by making certain individuals “mandated reporters” of known or suspected elder abuse. This means that when the specified person becomes aware of potential elder abuse, he or she must report it to the appropriate authorities. Mandated reporters of general elder abuse (such as physical elder abuse and nursing home abuse) include caregivers (both professional and non-professional), adult care custodians, healthcare practitioners, clergy members, employees of Adult Protective Services (APS) and law enforcement officials. 

The state’s mandatory reporting laws also cover financial elder abuse, requiring employees and officers of financial institutions to report suspected financial abuse of elder adults. Such employees and officers must report suspected financial elder abuse that they become aware of within the scope of their employment, such as by reviewing the elder’s financial documents, records, and transactions in connection with providing financial services to the elder. The consequences of failing to report such abuse can be severe; negligent failure to report carries a fine of up to $1,000 while willful failure to report can carry a fine of up to $5,000. 

For questions about California’s mandatory reporting laws, please speak to a San Francisco financial elder abuse attorney. 

State Enforcement Resources  

Finally, a variety of agencies in California investigate, and in some cases, prosecute the perpetrators of financial elder abuse. 

The following state and county offices and agencies handle financial fraud committed against elders: 

  • Adult Protective Services: Investigates reports of suspected abuse committed against elders who live in private homes, apartments, hotels, hospitals, or who are experiencing homelessness  
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: Investigates reports of suspected abuse committed against elders living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care housing
  • California Attorney General’s office: Investigates and prosecutes alleged Medi-Cal fraud and criminal elder abuse
  • Department of Consumer Affairs: Investigates fraud, false advertising, and other illegal practices committed by licensed professionals

A San Francisco Financial Elder Abuse Lawyer Can Point You in the Right Direction 

While the multitude of laws and agencies that focus on elder abuse can be overwhelming for the uninitiated, you need not attempt to navigate them alone. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process. To get started, please contact a San Francisco financial elder abuse attorney at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

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