House passes anti-financial fraud bill targeting seniors

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Older Americans lose an estimated $2.9 billion a year to financial fraud.

The House of Representatives is moving forward with an initiative aimed at stemming those losses.

On Wednesday, the chamber passed the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act by a vote of 371 to 48.

The bipartisan action will allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to assist state law enforcement agencies and task forces in protecting and educating seniors through the creation of a new Senior Investor Protection Grant Program.

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The bill would authorize $10 million each year to allow regulators to hire additional investigative staff and upgrade technology, training and equipment. In addition, money would also be spent on educating seniors about financial fraud.

Accompanying bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Senate in January by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Tim Scott, RSC; Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.; and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., who sponsored the House Bill, said on the floor Wednesday that he had personal experience of these scams when his own mother was assaulted by an alleged IRS agent.

“Luckily we found out and stopped this ‘IRS agent,'” Gottheimer said of the cheating actor. “But how many others paid?”

While records show that about 7 million Americans were victims of financial exploitation in the past year, other estimates show that typically only 1 in 24 cases of elder exploitation is reported, according to Gottheimer.

The reason more seniors aren’t turning up is largely due to fear, Lorraine Joewono, executive director of the Bergen County Division of Senior Services, said during an event in New Jersey hosted by Gottheimer earlier this week.

“Their biggest fear is that if they report it, they feel that if they report it, their family will think they can no longer be independent and live on their own,” Joewono said.

Many seniors are being cheated out of their life savings or retirement funds, she said.

“We always say to seniors, please don’t share your information with anyone,” Joewono said. “No one from the IRS will call you and ask you to send money.

“Only scammers do that.”

Scammers also often impersonate the Social Security Agency. This agency has worked to raise public awareness of these programs.

Gottheimer also sponsored the Senior Security Act passed by the House of Representatives last year. The bill would create a task force within the SEC to submit biennial reports to Congress on financial systems targeting seniors, such as automated calling and voice spoofing. House passes anti-financial fraud bill targeting seniors

Gary B. Graves

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