Governor Expands Definition of ‘Elder Abuse’ to Include Identity Theft

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On December 6, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul expanded the legal definition of “elder abuse and exploitation” to incorporate identity theft in the list of eligible support services and programs for seniors through non-profit agencies and law enforcement (S.1560/A.1994).

Identity theft is the unlawful use of an individual’s personal identification information such as the person’s name, social security number, driver’s license information, or bank and credit card accounts. Identity thieves use the information to establish credit, make purchases, apply for loans or even seek employment.

While older adults are not the exclusive targets of identity theft, they can be especially susceptible to victimization. Older adults are targeted for a few reasons. One is that they often have more money saved after a lifetime of working than younger people. Another factor is that the personal information of older adults, many of whom are in hospitals and nursing homes, often passes through more hands. Finally, older adults are less likely to report identity theft crimes because they do not know whom to report it to, do not know they have been taken advantage of, or are ashamed they have fallen victim. Many seniors also fear that if they report they have been victimized to family members, the family might think they no longer have the mental capacity to handle their own affairs.

The impact of identity theft can be devastating for older adult victims who are unable to restore stolen funds through employment. In its worst form, it can leave the older adult victim bankrupt and without assets.

The goal of this legislation is to provide New York’s support groups for the elderly and law enforcement teams with available resources to protect seniors, the fastest growing sector of our population, from harm related to identity theft.

If you suspect you or your family member have been a victim of identity theft, please contact your local law enforcement agency.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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