BARNEGAT/WARETOWN, NJ - With eleven over 55 communities in Barnegat, and two in Waretown, one thing remains evident. Southern Ocean County has its share of older people. Unfortunately, seniors and the disabled are too often seen as easy targets. Local legislators want to make it a crime to take advantage of either group.

Senator Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, and Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove are calling for public hearings on their legislation which would create the new offense of theft by financial exploitation of a vulnerable person.

Under their legislation, S-923 and A-701, the new offense would be committed when a person in a position of trust in relation to a senior citizen or a person with a disability commits a theft offense against that person. Crimes of financial exploitation against a senior or disabled person would be one degree greater than the most serious underlying theft offense. Truth be told, scam artists come up with different means of tricking the vulnerable all the time. And, financial exploitation comes from familiar people as well.

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The 9th District delegation, which has sponsored the legislation for several sessions, called for action on the new protections after speaking at a well-attended senior scam seminar held in Stafford Township.

“Hundreds of our constituents attended the senior scam seminar in Stafford Township with the understanding that that they or a loved one could be targeted by scam artists,” stated the 9th District delegation. “The serious concerns raised by both residents and law enforcement at the event reinforced the need for better protections, like those offered by our legislation, for our most vulnerable citizens from financial exploitation. Thieves who deliberately prey on seniors and the disabled deserve harsher sentences, especially when they have abused a position of trust.”

A person in a position of trust could include someone with a fiduciary obligation or a home health aide who may have access to a victim’s personal identification or financial information.

“We were glad to be part of the seminar in Stafford, which was highly effective in informing attendees of the severity of senior scams, the sophistication of the criminals who perpetrate these crimes, and ways that individuals can better protect themselves from becoming scam victims. Our delegation will continue working in the Legislature to strengthen penalties for criminals who are intent on financially exploiting our most vulnerable citizens.”

Presently, S-923 is awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee, while A-701, which has bipartisan sponsorship, is awaiting action by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

Information on how individuals can protect themselves from being scammed is available on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs website.