Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation

In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Public Chapter 264, the "Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Financial Exploitation Prevention Act".  As part of this legislation, the Department of Financial Institutions has been working with financial institutions and other agencies in state government on efforts to educate the public of the dangers posed to elderly and vulnerable adults by financial exploitation. 

The first step in preventing elder/vulnerable adult financial exploitation is awareness.  The information on this page is intended to increase understanding of issues surrounding elder/vulnerable financial exploitation. 

Various Tennessee statutes set forth definitions for an   "elderly   adult"   or   a   "vulnerable   adult".   For example,  under  the  Elderly  and  Vulnerable  Adult Financial  Exploitation  Prevention  Act  (the    "EVAFEP Act"), Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-1202 defines an "elderly adult" as  "a  person  sixty-five  (65) years  of  age,  or older" and a "vulnerable adult" as "a person eighteen (18) years of age or older, who, because of mental or physical dysfunction, is unable to fully manage the person’s own resources, carry out all or a portion of the  activities  of  daily  living,  or  is  unable  to  fully protect  against  neglect,  exploitation, or hazardous or   abusive   situations   without   assistance   from others."

The Tennessee Adult Protection Act (the "TPA Act"), at Tenn. Code Ann. § 71-6-102, defines "advanced age" as "sixty (60) years of age or older."

Under the EVAFEP Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 45-2-1202 defines "financial exploitation" as the "unlawful appropriation or use of an elderly or vulnerable adult's property, as defined in § 39-11-106(a), for one's own benefit or that of a third party." The TPA Act, at Tenn. Code Ann. § 71-6-102, defines "exploitation" as "the improper use by a caretaker of funds that have been paid by a governmental agency to an adult or to a caretaker for the use or care of the adult."

Exploitation may occur without the explicit knowledge or consent of the elderly or vulnerable adult and may deprive him or her of vital financial resources for their personal needs. Exploitation may occur via forms of deception, false pretenses, coercion, harassment, duress and physical or verbal threats. In a February 2016 Research Report regarding it's Banksafe Initiative, the AARP Public Policy Institute states that, "Americans ages fifty (50) years old and older are susceptible to fraud and financial exploitation in part because they own 67 percent of U.S. bank deposits" and also because of health status, cognitive ability, and social isolation."

Kathleen Quinn, former Executive Director of the National Adult Protectctive Services Association, stated "It is estimated that as many as one in five of Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized by financial fraud. In fact, it's a problem that is rampant, largely invisible, expensive and lethal."

 

Financial exploitation can occur in a variety of ways.

Some of these include:

∗ IRS Scams

∗ Securities/Investment Scams

∗ Romance Scams

∗ Lottery Scams

∗ Tech Support Scams

According to the 2021 FBI Internet Crimes Complaint Center, ("IC3") Elder Fraud Annual Report, individuals over the age of 60 filed 92,371 of the complaints received by the IC3, representing 21.54% of all complaints of internet crimes submitted.

The total dollars lost by this age group as a result of various internet crimes, as published in the 2021 IC3 Elder Fraud Annual  Report, continues to skyrocket at $1,685,017,829, or 30.04% of the total dollars lost due to internet crimes in 2021.

Tennesseans over the age of 60 filed 1,686 internet crime related complaints in the 2021 IC3 Elder Fraud Annual Report. The total dollars lost  by Tennesseans over the age of 60 from these reported internet crimes instances was $32,520,912,  (2021 Tennessee Statistics) (2021 FBI Internet Crimes Complaint Center, (IC3) Elder Fraud Annual Report Appendix A and B)

According  to  the 2021 Federal Trade Commission's ("FTC") Consumer Sentinel Databook, there were 173, 078 individuals 60 years or older who were victims of Identity Theft against them. Of this number, 71,285, or 41.19%, were subject to government document scams or benefit fraud. The median loss for those reporting fraud against them in the 20-29 age group was $500. For those in the 70-79 age group, the median loss was $800 and  for those 80 years and older, the median loss jumoed to $1500.

In addition to taking consumer reports directly from people who call the FTC’s call center or report online, the Consumer Sentinel Databook also includes reports filed with other federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as other organizations, like the Better Business Bureau and Publishers Clearing House

 

If the situation is an emergency, always call 9-1-1 first.

Adult Protective Services, or APS, may be reached at 1-888-APS-Tenn, or 1-888-277-8366. Online reporting to APS can made by completing the form at: https://reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov/

Any  illegal  exploitation  or  abuse  of  elderly  or vulnerable  adults  may  be  reported  to  local  law enforcement officials in the area of the victim. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation can be contacted at the following locations:

Headquarters   615-744-4000

Memphis           901-379-3400

Jackson              731-984-6600

Cookeville          931-526-5041

Chattanooga     423-634-3044

Knoxville            865-549-7800

Johnson City     423-434-6424

If you have concerns or questions about a financial institution, you can contact the Department at 1-800- 778-4215. Complaints regarding financial institutions can be filed with this Department at the following: https://first.tn.gov/Complaints/UI/Defaulta.aspx You can also contact the Department to request a hard copy of the consumer complaint form to complete and return.