In a sentence, Florida’s exploitation law (FSS 825.103) states that when someone maliciously takes the property of an “elderly person,” they are committing exploitation. That’s the essence of the law.
But there is also an important requirement: Within this law, an “elderly person” is defined as someone 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging to the extent that their ability to adequately care for and protect themselves is impaired. The law states that the elderly person must suffer a physical or mental infirmity. Therefore, exploitation is based primarily on infirmities or disabilities and not deception.
This is why exploitation is not fraud and why it can be much more devastating and offensive. Fraud is generally defined as deception that is carried out for the purpose of achieving personal gain while causing injury to another party. Exploitation requires more than that. It requires that the victims suffer disabilities that make them more vulnerable. And when the victim is more vulnerable, the victim impact is far worse.
To compare exploitation to fraud would be like comparing robbery to larceny. If you told a police officer that robbery is the worst type of larceny, he or she would correct you and say that they are two different crimes. Larceny simply means the taking of another’s property, while robbery requires the taking by force or threat. In the same sense, exploitation and fraud are also two different crimes. While scammers focus on things that their victims want with deception, exploiters focus on things victims need through the dependency caused by their infirmities.
So if you’re going to walk away with one thought from my book, make it this,
“Scammers prey on greed while exploiters prey on need.”
If you understand that concept, you’re probably one step ahead of those around you who misunderstand the crime.