Wyoming Bar Journal
Vol 30, No. 6, #8.
Protecting the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults From Financial Fraud and Exploitation
Wyoming Bar JournalVol 30, No. 6, #8Issue: December, 2007Author: Dorothy ThomasProtecting the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults From Financial Fraud and ExploitationUnder current Wyoming law, a vulnerable adult is defined as any "person eighteen years of age or older who is unable to manage and take care of himself or his money, assets or property without assistance, as a result of advanced age or physical or mental disability."
In a recent study it was noted that Adult Protective Service agencies substantiate more cases of financial abuse than physical abuse, and nationally, financial exploitation was identified as the fastest growing crime against vulnerable adults with minimal success in prosecution of the perpetrators. Criminals often exploit the victim's vulnerability, diminished judgment, frailty, and perhaps lack of family support. Previously it was felt to be a crime against the lonely and isolated, but is now evidenced to target the socially active and well educated, as these victims are far more "attractive" to the criminal element, and a far more profitable group of individuals to exploit.
Financial exploitation can include any of the following:
* Illegal or improper use of a vulnerable adult's funds, property or assets
* Cashing checks without authorization or permission
* Forging a signature
* Misusing or stealing a person's money or possessions
* Coercing or deceiving someone into signing documents, such as a contract or a will
* Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or Power of Attorney
Wyoming law defines "exploitation" as the reckless or intentional act taken by any person, or any use of the power of attorney, conservatorship or guardianship of a vulnerable adult, to:
(A) Obtain control through deception, harassment, intimidation or undue influence over the vulnerable adult's money assets or property with the intention of permanently or temporarily depriving the vulnerable adult of the ownership, use, benefit or possession of his money, assets or property; or
(B) In the absence of Legal authority:
(I) Employ the services of a third party for the profit or advantage of the person or another person to the detriment of a vulnerable adult;
(II) Force, compel, coerce or entice a vulnerable adult...