Aging Committee Chairman and Ranking Member introduce bill to support collaborative efforts with banks and credit unions to fight fraud
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the bipartisan “Senior$afe Act of 2015” this afternoon. This bipartisan legislation would put in place a common sense plan to help protect American seniors from financial fraud. This bipartisan legislation would provide support to collaborative efforts among regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate bank and credit unions employees about how to identify and help stop financial exploitation of older Americans.
Over the past two and a half years, the Senate Special Committee on Aging has held 15 hearings – six since January -- examining how con artists find and exploit victims and what can be done to stop them. According to the GAO, financial fraud targeting older Americans is a growing epidemic that costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually. These scams range from the infamous “Jamaican Lottery Scam,” to the notorious IRS phone scam, and, more recently, to the shady practices of some companies in the pension advance industry.
“Protecting seniors from financial exploitation and fraud is one of the top priorities of the Aging Committee. One factor is common to all the fraudulent scams the Aging Committee has investigated —the fraudsters need to gain the trust and active cooperation of their victims. Without this, their schemes would fail,” said Senator Collins. “I am very pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation, based on Maine’s innovative Senior$afe program, that will empower and encourage our financial service representatives to identify warning signs of common scams and help stop financial fraud targeting our seniors.”
Current bank privacy laws can make it difficult for financial institutions to report suspected fraud to the proper authorities. The Collins-McCaskill legislation would encourage banks, credit unions, investment advisors, and broker-dealers to report fraud by providing these institutions and their employees with protection from law suits so long as employees are trained in how to spot and report suspected financial exploitation, and their reports are made in good faith and on a reasonable basis to the proper authorities.
The Senior$afe Act is based on Maine’s innovative Senior$afe program, a collaborative effort by Maine’s regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate bank and credit union employees on how to identify and help stop financial exploitation of older Mainers. This program, pioneered by Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw, also serves as the template for model legislation developed for adoption at the state level by the North American Securities Administrators Association, which has endorsed the Collins-McCaskill bill.