South Hill residents Art and Donna Krell say they receive two or three calls in an average week from people claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service, requesting their Social Security numbers.
“The IRS doesn’t call you on the phone,” says Donna Krell, president of the Spokane chapter of AARP, the big nonprofit organization that represents the interests and lobbies on behalf of people age 50 and older.
The Krells say they’re in full support of Initiative 1501, a statewide ballot measure designed to increase criminal penalties for perpetrators of identity theft and consumer fraud who target seniors and vulnerable individuals.
If approved by Washington state voters in November’s general election, the initiative would enable prosecutors to charge accused perpetrators with first-degree theft, a class B felony.
Class B felonies carry penalties up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Right now in Washington state, identity theft is a class B felony only if it involves financial amounts exceeding $1,500.
Passage of Initiative 1501 into law also would enable judges to impose civil penalties of up to three times actual damages against perpetrators.
“Crimes against children and vulnerable adults are just despicable,” says Ken Alexander, executive director of the Touchmark on South Hill retirement community, at 2929 S. Waterford. “I was very happy to see this initiative, and I’ll vote for it.”
As it’s currently written, seniors are defined as those age 65 and over. Vulnerable individuals are described as those 60 and over with either the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for themselves.
The initiative also would protect anyone who is incapacitated or is developmentally disabled, regardless of age.
Along with increasing criminal penalties, the measure would change the Public Records Act to prohibit disclosing sensitive personal information of both vulnerable individuals and in-home caregivers of vulnerable populations.