By Danny Yarnall
A bill aimed at protecting seniors from financial scams was recently introduced by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
Presented on Thursday, May 21, 2020, The Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act calls for the Financial Trade Commission (FTC) to submit a report to Congress on COVID-19 scams directed against older adults along with suggestions on how to stop such scams.
In a time where state and federal government efforts look to provide relief to its most at-risk citizens, scammers look to prey on seniors. The IRS sent out an alert in April warning against phishing scams, specifically those requiring confirmation of financial information to receive coronavirus stimulus checks.
“Now during the COVID-19 pandemic, these scammers are using fear and uncertainty to take advantage of our vulnerable populations,” Sen. Moran said in a statement.
Estimates on the financial and personal toll of elder scams vary due to the nature of the crime. Some people don’t realize it is happening until it’s too late and the scammer has made off with their savings. Others may be too embarrassed to report the crime in the first place.
The National Adult Protective Services Agency estimated that more than $2.6 billion was stolen from older adults through financial scams in 2019. A New York state study found that there were 24 unreported cases of any kind of abuse in adults for every reported case. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimated that only 2 percent of financial crimes against elders were reported in 2017.
The bipartisan legislation also directs the FTC to provide updates on its website with directions on how seniors and their caregivers can contact law enforcement agencies. It recommends increased coordination between the FTC and the media to disseminate this information to the public.
“All Americans deserve safety and dignity in their senior years, yet new fraudulent schemes designed to target seniors appear almost daily,” said Sen. Klobuchar in a statement.
Care for seniors, their financial wellbeing, and protection against financial abuse is at the forefront of Whealthcare, a public health call to action for the healthcare and financial sectors to work together to detect, prevent, and document elder financial abuse.
In recent years, PMC co-director Jason Karlawish, MD, the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force, and elder advocates have spearheaded the movement through World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Dr. Karlawish praised the senators’ effort.
“As the collateral damages of this pandemic ramify into the lives of all Americans, this is precisely the kind of legislation Americans need to protect their health and wealth,” he said.