Washington, D.C. - Each year, older Americans lose approximately $3 billion to an ever-growing number of financial scams. These scams steal much-needed resources from seniors, which are often never recovered.
Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, examined this issue and released the Committee’s 2019 Fraud Book in a hearing titled: “Fighting Elder Fraud: Progress Made, Work to be Done.”
This first Aging Committee hearing of the 116th Congress added to the Committee’s extensive work to combat scams targeting seniors. The hearing examined the progress made by federal, state, and local law enforcement to coordinate efforts to combat elder fraud and the steps needed to enhance that coordination. It also highlighted the need for continued action to fight fraud that has been the focus of the Committee’s work in recent years, including the ever-increasing number of nuisance robocalls.
“Combatting fraud has long been a focus of this Committee. This is the 22nd hearing the Aging Committee has held in the past six years to examine scams affecting older Americans,” said Chairman Collins. “Stopping these scams artists requires a coordinated response from all levels of our government and the private sector, but alert citizens will always be the best line of defense. I am proud of the Committee’s work to help seniors become more aware and more informed, and to put criminals on notice that they will be caught and brought to justice.”
“It’s gut-wrenching that some scammers are able to rip away tens of thousands of dollars from our loved ones – robbing them of their nest eggs and threatening their retirement security,” said Ranking Member Casey. “That’s why I re-introduced the Stop Senior Scams Act, which would ensure retailers, financial institutions and wire transfer companies have the resources to train employees to help stop financial frauds and scams on seniors.”
The Senate Aging Committee operates a toll-free Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) for people to report being victimized by scam artists or to receive assistance if they think they are being scammed. Each year, the Committee releases an updated Fraud Book, which exposes the tactics scammers use in the top 10 most common scams reported to the Hotline and provides tips on ways for seniors to protect themselves. Last year, the Hotline received more than 1,500 calls from nearly every state. Once again, the IRS impersonation scam, where criminals pretending to work for the IRS call unsuspecting victims and demand payment of supposed back taxes, was the most reported scam.
The Committee heard testimony today from four witnesses who offered their insight on ways to improve the system.
Erika Flavin of Pennsylvania shared how her parents lost more than $80,000 through the “grandparents” scam. Ms. Flavin explained the financial and emotional toll this scam has caused for her family and expressed her belief that more can be done to prevent financial scams.
Candice Simeoni, an Administrative Supervisor at the Kennebunk Police Department, described how her job is focused on preventing criminals from taking advantage of seniors. She created the York County Elder Abuse Task Force to dovetail with her work at the Department by raising awareness among seniors about these crimes. Officer Simeoni argued that more education on scams must be made available to seniors, and statutes need to be modified or changed to protect victims.
Derek Schmidt, the Kansas Attorney General, discussed the ongoing efforts being made by state attorneys general, in conjunction with federal, state, and local partners, to combat the growing problem of financial elder abuse. Mr. Schmidt highlighted the need to improve the availability of consumer technology to block unwanted robocalls, strengthen and coordinate outreach and education efforts, increase prosecutions, and continually seek opportunities for federal participation in the fight against senior scams.
Judith Kozlowski, an Elder Justice Consultant in Washington, D.C., explained her more than 40 years of experience fighting elder financial abuse and exploitation. Mr. Kozlowski highlighted the strides made by federal, state, and local governments to prevent elder financial fraud, but she noted that with the explosion of technology and the growing older population, we must implement new strategies to address this issue. She argued that the financial services and tech industries could serve as critical assets in working with law enforcement to address elder financial fraud.
Click HERE to read the witnesses’ testimonies.