Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Senior financial protection bills signed into law

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a pair of bills by Assemblywoman Patty Berg designed to curb the rapid growth in financial scams that target the elderly.

Berg's bills, AB 2149 and AB 2150, crack down on the use of trumped-up credentials that unscrupulous sales people use to gain quick credibility with the older customers.

The new laws by Berg, D-Eureka, require real, verifiable training in order to use titles like "senior specialist" or "certified senior advisor.”

"If you want to call yourself an expert, you'd better really be one," said Berg. "If you want to use a title, you have to earn it."

Agents or brokers who violate the laws could lose their licenses or have them suspended.

Elder financial abuse is a growing problem in California and across the nation. More than a quarter million older Californians fall prey to some sort of abuse each year.

In 2007, a New York Times investigation found that the number of "certified" senior experts in insurance and financial product sales increased by 78 percent in the last five years.

While some of these agents are legitimate, many have obtained the credentials through dubious means, or simply invent a title themselves.

Some insurance companies and state regulators have begun to change the rules governing how sales agents can behave.

In 2007, Massachusetts prohibited financial advisors from using titles like "certified senior advisor" unless they were recognized by an accreditation organization or the state. But in most states agents can use any title that they choose.

"If you think there's an epidemic of abuse now, just wait," said Berg. "With the aging of our baby boomer generation, California's population of older adults is going to double in less than 15 years. We had to take these common sense steps now to stop these scams before they start."

Both laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.


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