Penalties for cheating the elderly have gotten tougher in Tennessee.
As part of a new law that went into effect over the weekend, people convicted of financial exploitation against senior citizens now face more jail time and higher fines. It's one of several updates to the state's laws protecting older Tennesseans.
Many of those changes deal with the real-world interactions at the heart of much of the financial fraud targeting the elderly. Although a lot of attention in recent years has been given to internet scams — like the hard-luck Nigerian who contacts you by email, asking for your financial information — when an elderly person is defrauded, the perpetrator is more likely to be a relative or close acquaintance behind it.
In other words, a caregiver, says Shelley Courington, advocacy director for AARP-Tennessee.
"I would believe that most of those are good. They're good earnest people working to care for their loved ones," she says. "But as in any scenario, there are some bad actors out there."
Under the new law, people who steal from the elderly will receive sentences that are one class tougher than those who swindle other Tennesseans. They'll also have their names recorded in an Elder Abuse Registry.
Another new law lets banks delay or freeze transactions when they suspect elder fraud, even if the account holder has given his or her consent.
And people who volunteer to work with the elderly now must go through background checks — the same ones that are required for professionals working in elder services and counseling.