Seniors are often targeted for their money or identity, commonly with fraudsters asking seniors to send a payment through gift cards, by wire transfer, credit card, or other predatory schemes. Retailers, financial services providers, and wire transfer companies have undertaken efforts to do their part to stop their customers, including seniors, from being scammed.
Fraud is so prevalent that prevention is only part of the solution. One in 20 seniors in the U.S. is a target of fraud schemes. Yet, the National Adult Protective Services Association has found that only one in 44 seniors report that they are victims of a fraud scheme, suggesting seniors lack information on how to file a complaint.
A new fraud scheme designed to target seniors appears almost daily. In many cases, seniors have watched their entire life savings disappear in scams that are specifically designed to target their assets.
Two new pieces of legislation in addition to H.R.1565 (see above) have been introduced to stop these kinds of scams.
The first is H.R. 446, the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act.
This legislation would require the Federal Trade Commission to update its website to include a searchable database of scams targeting seniors. It would have to work with media outlets and law enforcement to distribute the information. The FTC also would be required to send Congress a report with policy recommendations to prevent scams targeting older individuals, especially during national emergencies.
The second bill is H.R. 1215, which would establish an office within the Federal Trade Commission and an outside advisory group to prevent fraud targeting seniors and to direct the Commission to include additional information in an annual report to Congress on fraud targeting seniors.
The Advisory Office would give seniors hope in recovering their assets. It would address the low reporting rates by directing the FTC to educate seniors, families, and caregivers about the process for contacting law enforcement after being targeted in a fraud scheme. It would direct FTC to help improve the nation’s fraud response efforts by reforming FTC’s complaint system as well as enhancing fraud surveillance through better coordination with law enforcement agencies.
The FTC Advisory Group would bring together relevant government agencies, consumer advocates, and industry representatives to collect and develop model educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies to use in preventing scams on seniors. The FTC would coordinate efforts to educate the public and even the employees of key industries who often find themselves on the front lines of anti-scamming activities.