Buchanan/Deutch Seniors Fraud Bill Wins House OK
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan proposal introduced by Florida Congressmen Vern Buchanan and Ted Deutch cracking down on scams against older Americans was approved today by the U.S. House.
"We must do everything we can to protect the savings and dignity of older Americans from the scam artists and con men who try to defraud them,” Buchanan said.
The Seniors Fraud Protection Act was rolled into a larger anti-fraud bill, the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act (HR 1215), which was approved by a vote of 396 to 13. The bill will help prevent common scams against seniors, such as sweepstakes and charity cons, 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. Buchanan expressed optimism the Senate would approve the measure in the near future.
“This is an important safeguard for seniors who 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."
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.
Bill Sweeney, senior vice president of government affairs with AARP said, “The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would strengthen and coordinate partnerships among enforcement agencies to protect seniors from fraud and scams that undermine their financial security and independence. We support your efforts to create an office within the Bureau of Consumer Protection to assist the Federal Trade Commission identify and eliminate fraud that targets older Americans.”
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