Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal Tuesday joined a coalition of 47 Attorneys General in urging members of the Senate to support passage of the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act, a bipartisan legislative package that would protect senior citizens from financial fraud through expanded public education and awareness efforts, more focused monitoring of emerging fraud schemes, and enhanced coordination among federal agencies and states’ Attorneys General.
Comprised of two separate pieces of legislation – the Stop Senior Scams Act and Seniors Fraud Prevention Act – the package has already passed the House of Representatives. It is presently before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“Regrettably, seniors are often targeted for fraud through the mail, on the telephone, and online by scammers who seek to exploit their compassion and trust,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are committed to protecting New Jersey’s older residents from these scams, but the scams are often national or international in scope, making action by the federal government an important part of any response.”
In today’s letter, the coalition asserted that FBI and other statistics show a need for heightened “vigilance by industry and government” with respect to elder fraud scams.
According to FBI statistics, the letter notes that elder fraud results in nearly $3 billion in losses nationwide annually. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that elder abuse – which includes financial fraud scams and other financial exploitation – affects at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. And according to a federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis, suspicious activity reports triggered by suspected elder fraud scam attempts quadrupled between 2013 and 2017.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs is committed to preventing scams and financial abuse targeting older adults and responding to it when necessary,” said Acting Director Kaitlin Caruso. “But this kind of predatory behavior is a great and growing challenge, and we welcome efforts to strengthen critical federal partnerships and support in the fight to combat these particularly pernicious scams.”
The Stop Senior Scams Act would establish a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group accountable to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The Advisory Group would be tasked with gathering information on the existence, use, and success of educational materials and programs that retailers could use, financial services companies and wire-transfer businesses to train their employees to identify and prevent scams that affect seniors.
Tuesday's letter notes that these measures will educate those employees of industry stakeholders who are in the best position to recognize the warning signs of elder fraud and help elderly targets before they fall victim to scams. Unlike existing programs that provide information to seniors themselves, the letter notes, the Stop Senior Scams Act would correctly focus on providing information to stakeholders in relevant industries and enlisting the help of their workers in combating financial exploitation of older Americans.
The other half of the bill package – the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act – would establish an Office for the Prevention of Fraud Targeting Seniors within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. The new office would complement the efforts of the Advisory Group by:
- Monitoring emerging scams that target seniors through the internet, mail, robocalls, telemarketing, and television;
- Disseminating information on common fraud schemes; and
- Sharing information on how to report suspected senior fraud scams to a national fraud hotline and the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, where the data will be available to state attorneys general.
The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would also require the FTC to work with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to log and track complaints from victims and make those complaints immediately available to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Tuesday’s letter observes that senior citizens represent an increasingly large demographic group, nearing 20 percent of the population and that billions of dollars are lost each year due to elder fraud. The letter urges the Senate to pass the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act to aid states’ efforts to respond to the increasing threat of elder fraud through resources, training, prevention, and enforcement.