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Federal legislation seeks to crack down on senior fraud

Cracking down on fraudulent schemes that target older Americans is the goal of bipartisan legislation recently introduced by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Susan Collins. The Senior Fraud Prevention Act would help educate seniors and improve monitoring.

This post is the first in our series to discuss the national epidemic of elder financial abuse. Because only one in 44 incidents is ever reported, the extent of the problem is like an iceberg with many of the cases remaining below the surface. Victims are often too embarrassed to discuss or report what has happened.

Targets of the legislation

Type of schemes vary from fraudulent investment plans, Microsoft technical support scams, predatory home lenders, high-pressure sales tactics that sell seniors products they don’t need and telemarketing and mail fraud. As soon as a public service announcement warning goes out a scam will evolve. 

The maxim that “if something appears too good to be true, it is” does no service to anyone. Scam artists are masters at making things look legitimate or they wouldn’t be successful. With the tax scams, caller ID often lists IRS, the amount is designed to sound reasonable ($1,238.16) and threats that police will soon come to the door are designed to prey on fears.

Strengthening a complaint system

An important piece of the legislation is improving the complaint process. A new system would more quickly to alert appropriate law enforcement agencies. The Federal Trade Commission would be tasked with handling the consumer complaints and coordinate with other agencies.

The bill includes funding for development of informational materials to get out the word and how to get help. The bill passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee without opposition.

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