Scams Against Elderly Rising
Nearly One in Five Americans Over 65 Get Scammed
WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today called on Congress to help protect seniors against the growing number of financial scams, saying nearly one in five Americans over 65 will be victimized by fraud.
Buchanan said Congress should pass the bipartisan Seniors Fraud Prevention Act, legislation he co-authored to help crack down on scams targeting seniors.
The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a senior fraud group that would alert consumers about scams, maintain online resources and create an effective complaint system to ensure that reports of fraud are quickly forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
“Protecting seniors should be a bipartisan priority,” Buchanan said. “The Senate and House should move swiftly to approve this bill and put it on the president’s desk before more seniors fall victim to financial fraud.” The AARP and the Elder Justice Coalition have endorsed Buchanan’s bill.
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 recent survey from the Investor Protection Trust.
A poll conducted by the American Institute of CPAs in 2015 found that nearly half of CPA financial planners have seen an increase in elder fraud or abuse in the past five years.
Compounding the seriousness of the problem is the fact that the over-65 population is expected to grow to 20 percent of the total U.S. population by 2050, and that “financial abuse is expected to rise in tandem,” according to a New York Times report.
“Seniors have worked and saved their entire lives and should not be ripped off when they most need their money,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately, con artists and predators have targeted older Americans with a variety of financial scams.”
The scope of financial fraud against seniors is staggering. Estimates of seniors’ annual losses from these activities range from $3 billion to $36 billion.
Some common scams include:
- Impersonating an IRS agent – nearly one million people have been targeted by a scam in which a fraudster pretending to be from the IRS contacts a victim via phone. The criminal accuses the victim of owing back taxes and demands money. But seniors should know that the IRS will never call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment and that the agency will never ask for a credit card number over the phone.
- Telephone scams – there are a wide variety of telephone scams that target seniors. In one pervasive scam, a caller pretends to be a grandchild that needs money wired to them immediately for a legal or medical issue (or in some cases a doctor or police office holding their grandchild). The FTC received more than 14,000 complaints of people impersonating friends or family members in 2014.
- Identity theft – there are a number of scams that target seniors’ personal information, including their Social Security Numbers. To get access to this information, some scammers simply steal mail, while others can pretend to be a Medicare representative. Thieves can then steal an identity or use the information to file false tax returns. According to the FTC, Florida has the highest per capita rate of identity theft. Of the cities with the most identity theft complaints in 2014, nine of the top 20 are in Florida. The FTC reports that more than 800 people in Sarasota, North Port and Bradenton logged complaints last year, earning the area the 39th spot on the agency’s list.
“Seniors must be on guard against criminals who will rob them of their financial security,” Buchanan said. “In order to protect yourself, it pays to know what the scammers are up to.”
Buchanan is a leader in cracking down on senior crimes, particularly identity theft. In December 2015, Buchanan’s Taxpayer Identity Protection Act, which took Social Security Numbers off of the most commonly used tax form, was signed into law as part of a larger bill. Social Security Numbers are often taken in order to steal an identity.