With scams on the rise, financial institutions want more tools to protect vulnerable adults in Wyoming

Financial exploitation of seniors in Wyoming is getting “measurably worse,” according to AARP leaders in the state.

“We are seeing more scams and fraud,” AARP Wyoming’s associate state director Tom Lacock said during a legislative Judiciary Committee meeting this week in Lander.

He shared data from the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book that shows Wyomingites suffered $7.8 million in fraud losses in 2021, with a median of $500 lost per event.

Advertisement

“That number actually doubled over the previous two-year period and tripled over the previous three-year period,” Lacock said.

About 30 percent of consumer fraud targets older adults, he added, citing national data.

In Wyoming, up to 140 new vulnerable adult cases come to the Department of Family Services each month, and about 20 percent of those deal with financial exploitation, director Korin Schmidt said.

The majority of the alleged perpetrators in the financial cases are family members, she added.

10-day hold

Both Schmidt and Lacock asked the Judiciary Committee to consider legislation allowing banks to place 10-day holds on financial transactions when there is a suspicion of fraud taking place against a vulnerable adult.

Advertisement

Banks are already required to report their suspicions, Schmidt noted, but they do not currently have the immunity they require to issue a 10-day hold on a transaction.

The 10-day hold gives law enforcement time to investigate the situation before the money is withdrawn from the account and can’t be recovered, she explained.

“For a vulnerable adult, it may mean that they get to keep their money,” Schmidt said.

Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, presented the bill proposal to the Judiciary Committee this week in the form of Senate File 76, which failed to pass during the Wyoming Legislature’s most recent session.

Financial institutions in Wyoming requested the legislation, Case said, and Wyoming Banking Association president Scott Meier claimed authorship of the bill.

A ‘target’

Wyoming is one of only two states without this kind of law in place, Meier told the Judiciary Committee this week.

“Do you believe that makes our vulnerable adults much more of a target then?” Wyoming Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, asked.

“I do,” Meier replied. “It does make Wyoming look like they’re targets.”

Offering a more optimistic perspective on the lag, Lacock said “we’ve had kind of a nice field test with laws that are very similar to this.”

The North American Securities Administrators Association provides a model for elder exploitation legislation that is “very similar” to Senate File 76, Lacock said.

Of the 33 states that have used the NASAA model as a basis for legislation, he said none have reported “significant problems with their implementation.”

Instead, he said, those states have seen “dramatic increases in the number of reports of potential financial exploitation.”

“That history suggests this model works and tends to lead to more protections for our older adults,” Lacock said. “We urge your consideration and support for the legislation.”

The Judiciary Committee did not move forward with Senate File 76 this week, however.

Instead, Wyoming Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, asked state staffers to prepare a presentation about similar laws that have been passed in other states, and about protections for vulnerable adults at the federal level.

“Get us learned up on the topic … so that we can do the first bill draft with that level of knowledge under us,” she said.

Related Posts

Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?