Senior Scams Prevention Act introduced in the Senate

Created date

December 11th, 2018
Senior Scams Prevention Act has been introduced in the Senate. If passed, the bill would create a federal advisory council to develop educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies.

Senior Scams Prevention Act has been introduced in the Senate. If passed, the bill would create a federal advisory council to develop educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies.

Frequent readers of this column know far too well that seniors are often the target of unscrupulous scammers.

Finally, it seems that our legislators are taking notice and trying to do something about it.

In October, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, introduced the Senior Scams Prevention Act.

If passed, the bill would create a federal advisory council to develop educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies. The idea is to use the materials to train employees of these institutions to spot scams, particularly those that target seniors.

Strong endorsements

The bill is endorsed by Consumers Union, Best Buy, Consumer Federation of America, Green Dot Corp., MoneyGram, National Consumers League, Target, Walmart, and Western Union.

Some of these businesses protect consumers, while others are places where consumers purchase wire transfers and electronic gift cards—two methods of payment favored by scammers.

“Far too many older Americans have been targeted by scam artists. These criminals threaten legal action against seniors or loved ones if ‘payment’ is not made immediately through a wire transfer or gift card,” says Sen. Casey. “The Senior Scams Prevention Act would help stop a payment before it is ever made so that seniors don’t lose one more penny to a fraud or scam.”

The committee estimates that older Americans are scammed out of at least $3 billion a year. By training the employees on the front lines to be on the lookout for unusually large withdrawals or people buying gift cards in large denominations, they may be able to intervene before the money changes hands.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice forced Western Union to refund $586 million to consumers who had been defrauded while using their services. If this legislation can prevent fraud before it happens, both consumers and businesses will benefit.

“Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable consumers in this digital age—mistakenly falling victim to scammers that steal their money, identity, and dignity,” says Sen. Moran. “Now more than ever, it is imperative we bring industry leaders together to examine ways and propose actions American businesses can take to help educate the public, specifically senior citizens, on how to identify and avoid these harmful scams.”

“As a long-time consumer advocate, I believe that education is the key in preventing victimization,” said Mary Bach, chair of AARP Pennsylvania’s consumer issues task force, when she testified before the committee. “If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. When individuals have the knowledge and skills to help thwart wrongdoing, we are all better off, and the proposed program would enhance that ability.”

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam, contact the Aging Committee’s toll-free fraud hotline at 1-855-303-9470.

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