New Texas law hopes to encourage banks to fight elder financial abuse

Anita Sybesma's mom was the victim of elder financial abuse after a caregiver allegedly stole money and valuables (KXAN Photo)
Anita Sybesma's mom was the victim of elder financial abuse after a caregiver allegedly stole money and valuables (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A new Texas law hope to encourage banks to play a larger role in defending elderly Texans who get taken advantage of financially.

According to the AARP, every year more than $3 billion is stolen from people through elderly financial exploitation. In nine out of 10 cases, the culprit is someone the victim knows. That’s why Texas lawmakers passed, and Governor Abbott signed, HB 3921 by Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound.

For 50 years, Anita Sybesma’s mom wanted to stay in her house as long as possible.

“It’s really hard to go against your mom,” Sybesma said.

Anita paid a caregiver to watch over her. But the day of her mom’s funeral, Anita noticed the necklace both she and her mother wore at their weddings wasn’t there. Neither were the earrings. They had been replaced by fakes.  So she checked credit card receipts. The caregiver used their money to buy things for more than a year.

“I should have been checking receipts. But I didn’t. And I was conned,” Sybesma said.

“Prior to the bill it wasn’t clear if banks felt comfortable putting a hold on a transaction,” said Tim Morstad, the associate state director of outreach and advocacy for AARP Texas.

The law removed liability from banks, encouraging them to investigate questionable checks, money orders and purchases. It requires banks to report them to the state.

“As the front line, banks and financial institutions are in this unique position to help stop exploitation in its tracks,” Morstad said.

“Even if it turns out that that’s not the case, that at least makes three more people aware that they need to be watching,” Sybesma said.

The author of the bill, Rep. Tan Parker, tells KXAN that the protections in this law will come in handy as a wave of scams is expected to hit Texas after Hurricane Harvey leaves many elderly Texans vulnerable.

“We often see the goodness of the human spirit helping one another. Regretfully, we also see where criminals use such devastation to take advantage of people. This is precisely why the passage of HB 3921 is even more relevant to providing protections for our elderly and other vulnerable populations from fraudulent financial activities during this long recovery process,” Rep. Parker told KXAN.  

For more information on what to look for and who can help, click here. 

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