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Minnesota Legislature

House passes ‘Safe Seniors Act’ to protect seniors, vulnerable citizens from fraud

The Capitol Dome pictured on April 19. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Proponents of a bill passed by the House Monday said the state needs more tools to protect Minnesota’s senior citizens and vulnerable population from financial fraud.

The so-called “Safe Seniors Act,” HF3833, would allow broker dealers and investment advisors to report suspected financial exploitation to the Department of Commerce or the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center, followed by an opportunity to freeze any related accounts to prevent financial injury. The bill would give law enforcement an opportunity to intervene and provide legal immunity to the reporters who disclose the information to governmental agencies or in court proceedings.

The House passed the amended bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne), on a 114-8 vote. It goes to the Senate where Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point) is the sponsor.

WATCH Full video of Monday's House Floor session 

“Investment advisors and broker-dealers see the fraud but they have no tools available to help them,” Schomacker said. The bill, he added, would “give them the tools they need to act.”

Schomacker told the House that seniors throughout the country are losing an estimated $3 billion per year due to exploitation. The average theft to seniors is $36,000 per year, according to some experts.

An amendment from Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) added Fourth Amendment-protected processes to the bill, making “certain we gave seniors self-determination” if their finances become frozen. The measure would still help “stop fraud and abuse,” she said.

Under the bill, the Commerce Department would have five days to decide whether a reported act is fraudulent, and the individual would be allowed an appeals process. It would only apply to protecting Minnesotans age 65 and older, or anyone defined by statute as a “vulnerable adult.”

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