There is a growing problem of consumer scams in Tennessee. Our state has the 10th highest rate per capita for reports of fraud with losses for consumers totaling over $13.7 million in previous years. And with the increasing sophistication of Internet technology, scammers are more devious than ever.
Unfortunately, many of these criminals prey on the good faith and humanity of our most vulnerable citizens, our elderly. In the past I have sponsored and supported legislation to combat the issue of elderly scamming and elder abuse. It is important that we continue to propose legislation to protect our citizens from scammers and abuse, especially the elderly.
The 2019 legislative session saw passage of several bills to combat exploitation of Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity. There are over 5 million elder abuse victims in the United States and scamming of elderly citizens continues to occur. We passed several pieces of legislation this session to prevent this from occurring.
Elderly Abuse - The Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019 was approved this year increasing penalties for the most dangerous crimes involving elder abuse. The legislation is part of a series of bills passed by lawmakers over the last three years with the support of the state’s district attorneys general. The goal is to protect Tennesseans who are elderly or have diminished capacity from psychological abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and various forms of financial exploitation.
This year’s legislation creates enhanced offenses for abusing an elderly or vulnerable adult when the abuse is committed with a deadly weapon or results in serious bodily injury. It raises the felony classification for most extreme forms of abuse of an elderly person from a Class C felony to a Class B felony, doubling the average amount of time served by offenders of the most horrific crimes. In addition, the act expands the availability of protective orders for elderly and vulnerable adults and broadens who has the authority to seek an order of protection on behalf of the elderly victim.
The legislation also eases the process for obtaining an order of protection on behalf of an elderly person who lacks financial resources to petition the court. It authorizes the court to waive any court costs, taxes, or fees for obtaining an order of protection upon a finding that the individual for whose benefit an order of protection has been sought is indigent.
Elder Task Force – In continuing efforts to protect Tennessee’s senior citizens, the General Assembly voted on SB199 to create an Elder Task Force. The group is specifically tasked with what further improvements can be made to the Tennessee Adult Protection Act to keep vulnerable adults safe from financial exploitation.
Elderly Victimization / Medical Information – Another bill, SB265, is aiming to protect Tennessee’s elderly from being victimized by financial target scammers. The legislation helps protect senior and vulnerable adults from being scammed by unscrupulous companies looking to steal their medical information and write a fraudulent prescription for medical devices, supplies or medicine. The new law creates a Class D felony for any person who knowingly uses a phone or an electronic device to obtain information from an elderly person regarding their medical history or health, and then sends unsolicited medical supplies or prescriptions to them in order to file a claim.
We will continue to do everything in the General Assembly to ensure swift and sure punishment for these scammers. Certainly one major tip is - that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For more consumer tips and resources, please visit the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs at www.tn.gov/consumer.
You May Contact Senator Hensley at
425 5th Avenue North, Suite 746
Nashville TN 37243
Toll Free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100
855 Summertown Highway
Hohenwald TN 38462
Cell Phone 931-212-8823