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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2004

Blagojevich signs law to strengthen state protection of elder rights
State agencies to work together to help employees of Illinois financial institutions to recognize and prevent elder financial exploitation

CHICAGO – In an effort to better protect vulnerable older people of this state, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2707 - requiring new cooperation with the Department on Aging’s program to prevent financial exploitation of the elderly.  The new law requires the Commissioner of Banks and Real Estate to encourage Illinois banks and financial institutions to participate in training from the Department on Aging that helps their employees identify and prevent different forms of financial exploitation. 
          
“I am proud to sign legislation that is aimed at protecting our elders against a serious and increasingly prevalent crime – financial exploitation,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “This legislation is strong because it builds on the resources of a state program that has been providing valuable services for 15 years and it addresses the concerns of individual financial institutions for their vulnerable customers who may be the victims of financial abuse.”
 
SB 2707, sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester) and Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), amends the Office of Banks and Real Estate Act to require the Commissioner of Banks and Real Estate to work in cooperation with the Director of Aging to encourage all financial institutions regulated by the Office of Banks and Real Estate to participate in the Department on Aging’s financial exploitation of the elderly intervention programs.
 
Financial exploitation, when an elder person’s resources are misused or withheld by another, was the form of elder abuse most frequently reported in Illinois last year.  In fact, it was cited in 55 percent of all cases of elder abuse in the state last year. State law requires professional service providers to report elder abuse under certain circumstances. The law also encourages the reporting of abuse by the public and provides immunity from liability and professional disciplinary action for those who report suspicious incidents in good faith.
 
“This crime is particularly offensive because it takes from older people the assets that they have worked so hard and so long to save,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “I commend Sen. Lightford and Rep. Yarbrough for their hard work on behalf of Illinois seniors.”
 
Currently the Department on Aging conducts a program, Bankers and Seniors Against Financial Exploitation (B* Safe), that trains bank employees to identify and report cases of suspected financial exploitation. The Department also conducts money management services for elder-abuse clients.
 
“We need to do everything we can to strengthen laws that are supposed to protect our seniors,” said Rep. Yarbrough.  “I am really pleased that the Governor signed this legislation into law – it’s a great way for bank tellers to alert seniors of suspected fraud.”
 
Financial abuse is one of seven forms of abuse that is handled by the Department on Aging through 45 provider agencies throughout the state. The other forms of abuse are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, confinement, passive neglect and willful deprivation. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the allegations, a trained caseworker makes personal contact with the alleged victim within 24 hours when the charge is life-threatening, 72 hours for reports that are not life threatening and within seven calendar days for most reports of financial exploitation and emotional abuse.


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