Buchanan, Deutch Re-Introduce Bill to Protect Seniors from Fraud
WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Ted Deutch (D-FL) today re-introduced legislation to crack down on scams and fraud targeting older Americans.
“Seniors have worked their entire lives with the promise of a safe and secure retirement,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and working overtime to target them. Scams targeting the elderly threaten more than retirement accounts – they imperil the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community. We must do everything we can to safeguard the savings and dignity of Americans as they enter their golden years against those who try to defraud them.”
The Seniors Fraud Protection Act, will help prevent common scams against seniors, such as sweepstakes and charity schemes, as well as fraudulent investment plans and internet fraud. The bill creates an advisory office within the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Affairs charged with alerting consumers of new scams. The bill passed the U.S. House as a part of a larger anti-fraud bill in November and a similar bill passed the U.S. Senate in December.
In addition to being especially vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus, seniors have suffered greatly from some of the pandemic’s crippling indirect impacts such as loneliness and isolation. Unfortunately, criminals haven’t taken any time off during these trying times. In fact, scammers are taking advantage of the situation by preying on seniors to profit from the pandemic. The AARP, which endorsed the bill, has warned that scammers are inventing new and dangerous ways to trick seniors out of thousands of their hard-earned dollars. Stimulus checks, unemployment and other government assistance have been enticing targets for criminals during the pandemic.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, scams targeting seniors cost more than $3 billion annually. Seniors are also less likely to report fraud because they don’t know how or are ashamed of falling for the scam.
Congressman Ted Deutch said, “Seniors are often the biggest targets for scams trying to confuse and cheat them to give up money and personal information. We need a stronger federal effort to track, target, and warn against these fraudulent schemes. This bill will strengthen important consumer protections to help seniors protect their assets.”
Nearly one in five Americans over the age of 65 have “been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud,” according to a survey from the Investor Protection Trust.
Joyce Rogers, senior vice president of government affairs with AARP said, “AARP supports the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act because it underscores the need to combat the growing problem of fraud against seniors. It will enable the FTC to highlight and coordinate the work of the Bureau of Consumer Protection on fraud against seniors.”
Buchanan was presented with the “Guardian of Seniors’ Rights” award in 2018 by one of the nation’s leading non-partisan organizations dedicated to protecting senior citizens. In 2017, Buchanan chaired a hearing on combatting Medicare fraud following a crackdown where more than 400 individuals were charged with falsely billing $1.3 billion to the Medicare program as well as some private insurers. And in 2016, Buchanan’s proposal to preserve certain Medicare Advantage plans was signed into law.
Buchanan represents more than 220,000 seniors in the nation’s seventh-oldest congressional district.