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Protecting The Elderly

Due to the increasing number of schemes and crimes that affect the elderly, Illinois has passed laws specifically designed to deter such conduct. Elderly consumers are often the prey of unscrupulous telemarketers who offer a myriad of products, sweepstakes, and investment plans that bilk senior citizens out of millions each year.

The elderly are vulnerable because they are more likely to be at home when the telemarketer calls, they are often experiencing a feeling of loneliness and thus welcome a telephone call from a seemingly friendly voice, and they are looking for financial security at a time in their lives when they have likely stopped earning a regular income. These circumstances combine to make them the most willing victims for deceptive telemarketers. To compound the problem, fraud claims often go unreported because the victim is too embarrassed to report the incident to family or friends, or because the victim does not know to which law enforcement agency to report the fraud.

There is a federal law that helps to curb fraudulent telemarketing by placing certain restrictions on telemarketing services. In Illinois, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act is designed to protect all Illinois consumers from such deceptive schemes. However, it provides specific civil penalties for violations of the Act committed against persons who are 65 years of age or older. The court may impose an additional civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation of the Act. The state then deposits this money into the Elderly Victim Fund, which finances investigations and prosecutions of fraud against persons who are 65 or older. The Fund is also designed to develop and implement statewide education initiatives to inform elderly persons, law enforcement agencies and other professionals, and members of the public about the prevention of consumer crimes against the elderly.

Additionally, the Act imposes up to a $50,000 civil penalty for fraud specific to the advertising, sale, provider selection, billings, or collections relating to the provision of electric service to consumers who are 60 years old or older, or to individuals who are disabled.

Other laws provide criminal penalties for taking advantage of the elderly. Under the Illinois Criminal Code, it is a felony to financially exploit an elderly or a disabled person. A person who commits the exploitation must be in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person and must knowingly and by deception or intimidation obtain control over such person with the intent to permanently deprive the elderly or disabled person of the use, benefit, or possession of his or her property. In addition to the criminal penalties, a civil penalty may be imposed if the victim's property is not returned within 60 days following a written demand from the victim or the victim's legal representative. The penalty includes payment of damages to the victim in the amount of three times the value of the property obtained, plus reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. This penalty can be imposed regardless of whether the individual is actually convicted of financial exploitation of an elderly person.

It is also a felony for a care giver to neglect an elderly or disabled person. "Criminal neglect" is defined as a care giver who knowingly performs acts that cause the elderly person's life to be endangered, his or her health to be injured, or his or her preexisting physical or mental condition to deteriorate. A person is guilty of criminal neglect if he or she fails to perform acts that he or she knows or reasonably should know are necessary to maintain or preserve the life or health of the elderly person and that failure causes such person to suffer such harmful effects.

Finally, Illinois law imposes even stiffer criminal penalties for such crimes as assault and battery of a senior citizen.

© 2011 Lucas Law

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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