Attorney General Mark Herring and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services are reminding Virginians of a new law that went into effect on July 1 that will aid investigations into the heinous crime of financial exploitation of older or vulnerable Virginians.
“Virginia’s seniors are frequent targets of financial scams and exploitation schemes that could rob them of their hard-earned savings, and it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to protect them,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “This newly implemented law can help keep our seniors safe and sends a strong message to potential scammers and fraudsters that the Commonwealth takes these crimes seriously and will hold perpetrators accountable.”
“For some people, even the loss of a few thousand dollars can wipe out the funds they saved for their current needs or to provide for their later years,” said DARS Commissioner Jim Rothrock. “We will not tolerate that in the Commonwealth. We need to bring every tool we have to bear in protecting Virginians from this exploitation and in investigating the cases that do occur.”
The new law means that police and sheriff’s officers will bring their special expertise early into an investigation of possible adult exploitation and collaborate with APS workers to stop the financial abuse. Law enforcement officials will also play a critical role in gathering evidence for prosecution of perpetrators. Additionally, local law enforcement will be required to provide a point of contact for APS referrals to local departments of social services and the APS hotline.
The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services will provide training to APS hotline staff and APS workers in local departments of social services about the changes. Information about the new law has been disseminated to the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association to share with their members, who can discuss the importance of reporting suspected financial exploitation of vulnerable adults within their communities.
A recent review by DARS’ APS Division suggests that adult financial exploitation costs elderly and vulnerable Virginians an estimated $28.2 million each year, with funds taken ranging from $10 to $1 million. DARS believes that the full impact of financial exploitation may rob Virginia victims of an estimated $1.2 billion a year, given that national estimates suggest that only 1 in 44 cases of financial exploitation are reported to officials.