Sanctions for scam artists, fake service animals took effect August 1

The vetoes of major policy and spending bills meant gains were sparse at the capitol in 2018. However, some key […]

The vetoes of major policy and spending bills meant gains were sparse at the capitol in 2018. However, some key bills were signed into law this spring. Two very different laws went into effect August 1, affecting people with disabilities and elders.

Scam artists who target senior citizens and vulnerable adults will face more sanctions, as the Safe Seniors Financial Protection Act went into effect August 1. The Minnesota Department of Commerce is partnering with financial professionals to prevent financial fraud and exploitation. The act provides tools to Minnesota’s financial professionals to identify and report cases of financial abuse of seniors and vulnerable adults. Financial professionals such as broker-dealers and investment advisers can now report to the Commerce Department and the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center when a senior or vulnerable client is falling victim to financial exploitation and notify a trusted third party about the suspected financial exploitation. Financial professional can temporarily delay a transaction or disbursement of funds to protect vulnerable adults and seniors from financial exploitation.

The act is seen as creating a stronger partnership between advisers and the Minnesota Commerce Department. In recent years there have been a growing number of financial exploitation cases targeting elders and vulnerable adults in Minnesota. Exploitation an be by family members or complete strangers. People have lost their life’s savings to these scams.

The new law makers it easier to report such scams and to act. Broker-dealers and investment advisers can also freeze transactions on the account for up to 15 days while investigators investigate it. If they need more time, investigators can request the transaction delay continue for another 10 days.

Broker-dealers and investment advisers acting in good faith are immune from administrative or civil liability for reporting, third-party disclosure and delayed transactions or disbursement because they are trying to prevent fraud.

Anyone who reasonably believes a vulnerable adult or senior (anyone age 65 or over) is in danger of becoming a victim of financial exploitation can make a report to both the Commerce Department at 952-237- 7571 and the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC) at 1-844- 880-1574.

Another law that took effect August 1 affects service animals and their owners. People who try to pass off untrained creatures as service animals can now face a $100 fine. Minnesota joins almost two dozen other states in enacting such a law. It’s important for people with legitimate, trained service animals to be aware of this law and its implications.

The intent is to protect legitimate service animals and the people who rely on them. These specially trained animals, which are usually dogs, help people with disabilities with many tasks.

Service animals are not to be mistaken for emotional support animals or household pets. While these creatures may serve an important function for their owners, untrained animals have caused problems in stores, restaurants and other public places. But an increasing number of people have purchased vests for their untrained dogs, to try to pass them off as service animals.

One woman who testified before state lawmakers in the spring described how her service dog was fatally injured by an untrained dog.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows service animals and their owners access to public places. The Minnesota Council on Disabilities website explains the new law and the ADA definition of a service animal.

A service animal is defined by the ADA as a dog, or in some cases a miniature horse, individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The work performed by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The ADA allows these animals to go anywhere that the public can go.

The council reminds people that staff at a public place cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Service animals do not have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animal. Two questions may be asked of the owner of a service animal:

Is the service animal required because of a disability?

What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

Service animals must be under handler control and housebroken. The animals need to be on leases or tethers. Misbehaving, out of control, or lunging service animals may be asked to leave the premises. A business may charge for any damages that the animal causes. Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.

Read more about the new law and other service regulations at www.disability.state.mn.us

 

 

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