Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged the General Assembly Monday to pass legislation aimed at preventing the financial exploitation of Georgia seniors.
Senate Bill 84, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, would authorize financial advisors to delay transactions involving their elderly or disabled clients if they suspect fraud.
Financial exploitation of seniors has been on the rise since the pandemic struck nearly three years ago, Raffensperger said Monday during a news conference at the state Capitol.
“The COVID pandemic helped [drive] that rapid increase as you saw many people isolated from their support systems and under tremendous financial strain and worry,” he said.
Raffensperger said the rate of financial exploitation of seniors has doubled across the country since the start of the pandemic, with COVID-related scams accounting for more than $100 million in losses.
He cited a federal study that found U.S. financial institutions lost more than $3.4 billion to fraudulent criminal activity in 2020 alone.
The Securities Division in the secretary of state’s office handles complaints of financial exploitation. But those complaints often come too late, Raffensperger said.
“The money is usually gone well before we are notified,” he said. “Recovery is difficult.”
Senate Bill 84 is designed to avoid financial exploitation by letting financial advisors who spot something amiss in a pending transaction head it off.
“This bill will give financial institutions the tools to be preemptive instead of waiting until after the fact when the money may be gone,” Hufstetler said. “There’s many horror stories of that out there, and we want to take care of them.”
The bill’s cosponsors include Republican Sens. Mike Dugan of Carrollton, Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta, Ben Watson of Savannah, and Rick Williams of Milledgeville, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves of Atlanta.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.