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Senate committee focuses on stopping senior scams

Created date

April 13th, 2017
Senior woman with credit card in hand, talking on the phone.

"When it comes to someone going after your money, just say ‘I’ll think about it tonight and get back to you tomorrow' and contact someone about it.”

This past February, Philip Hatch, an 81-year-old from Portland, Maine, traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. He was there to tell the sad story of how he was scammed out of $8,000 by criminals posing as IRS agents. 

As Hatch tells it, “Being in the military and working for the government—you know, when the government calls you up, you say ‘Aye aye, sir. What do you need? Can I help you?’ Maybe if I hadn’t had that background, I wouldn’t have been so cooperative?”

Hatch is not alone. As Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations at the U.S. Treasury Department, testified at the same hearing, over 1.8 million Americans reported receiving similar calls. The scammers say they are IRS or Treasury Department employees and threaten unsuspecting people with jail. 

It’s an effective scam—costing Americans $54 million in 2016. According to the Government Accountability Office, financial fraud targeting older Americans is a growing epidemic that costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually.

Special phone number

To help combat fraud, the Senate committee has set up a toll-free Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) to help older people who have been victimized by scammers.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, contact the committee at 1-855-303-9470. The committee’s investigators have experience in fraud concerning retirement savings, identity theft, phone scams, Medicare, Social Security, and other consumer issues important to older Americans. The office will be staffed by a team of committee investigators who are available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

The committee also published The 2017 Fraud Guide which is accessible online (goo.gl/wEMbLc). 

“As our 2017 fraud book makes clear, while we are certainly making progress, far too many victims are still losing money and often their retirement savings. Law enforcement, consumer protection, Area Agencies on Aging, AARP, and financial institutions play vital roles, but alert citizens are still our first and best line of defense,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) in her opening statement.

Scammers are most effective when they catch you off guard. Your best defense is to stay informed and never act in haste. Take it from Hatch who concluded his testimony with this advice, “All I can say is just be wary. Just be careful. When it comes to someone going after your money, just say ‘I’ll think about it tonight and get back to you tomorrow' and contact someone about it.” 


Top ten scams in 2016

1. IRS impersonation scams

2. Fake sweepstakes scams

3. Robocalls/unwanted phone calls

4. Computer scams

5. Elder financial abuse

6. Grandparents scams

7. Romance scams/confidence scams

8. Government grant scams

9. Counterfeit check scams

10. Identity theft

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