Senators Collins, McCaskill Introduce the Senior $afe Act of 2017

“A much needed step in the fight against financial exploitation of seniors”

Washington, D.C. — Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, the Chairman and former Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, today introduced the bipartisan “Senior$afe Act of 2017.” This bipartisan legislation would put in place a commonsense plan to help protect American seniors from financial exploitation and fraud by providing support to regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate their employees about how to identify and prevent financial exploitation of older Americans.

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 “Jamaican Lottery Scam,” to the IRS impersonation scam, and as recently highlighted in a Senate Aging Committee hearing, the financial exploitation of seniors through guardianships.

“Protecting seniors from financial exploitation and fraud is one of the top priorities of the Aging Committee. One factor is common to all the 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.”

“If we can better protect our seniors from fraudsters in some of the most vulnerable years of their lives, we should use every tool at our disposal to do so,” said Senator McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor. “We’ve got to give financial professionals the ability to combat fraud when they see it—while protecting the privacy of their customers—so that no Missourian’s life savings are at risk of exploitation.”

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. Last year, the Senate Aging Committee held a hearing examining programs on the state level that aim to stop financial exploitation of seniors. Included in this hearing was testimony from Jaye Martin, the Director of Maine’s Legal Services for the Elderly. During the hearing, Chairman Collins asked Ms. Martin about the effectiveness of the Senior$afe program in fighting the financial exploitation of seniors in Maine. In response, she stated:

“Senior$afe has been an extraordinary success, and we were thrilled to see your leadership in taking the concept to the nation,” Ms. Martin responded. “Hundreds of financial institution managers and employees have been trained, and we are really seeing that increase the number of seniors that are getting help before it’s too late.”

Current bank privacy laws can make it difficult for financial institutions to report suspected fraud to the proper authorities The Senior$afe Act would address this problem by:

  • Encouraging banks, credit unions, investment advisors, broker-dealers, insurance companies and insurance agencies to report suspected senor financial fraud; and
  • Protecting these institutions from being sued for making reports so long as they have trained their employees, and make reports in good faith and on a reasonable basis to the proper authorities.

Cosponsors of the Senior$afe Act of 2017 include: Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Bob Casey (D-PA); Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Thom Tillis (R-NC); Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Roger Wicker (R-MS); Jon Tester (D-MT); Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); and John Barrasso (R-WY); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); Dean Heller (R-NV); and Angus King (I-ME)