As older American's continue to suffer from elder financial fraud, scams and abuse at a record pace, Congress has taken notice.
The losses our seniors experience from fraud are painful and many public officials have joined together in an effort to help them. Recently, a bipartisan group of United States Senator's introduced legislation that will assist vulnerable seniors who have been scammed in an effort to help them get their money back.
U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, Bill Cassidy, John Kennedy, Robert Casey, Richard Blumenthal and Lindsey Graham have teamed up to sponsor and co-sponsor The Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act (Edith's Bill). The legislation will incentivize states to pay back seniors who have been fraud victims through the Department of Justice's Crime Victims Fund. The Crime Victims Fund is financed through fines and penalties on federal criminal convictions and not taxpayer dollars!
Sadly, our older adults are frequent victims of financial fraud and abuse, unfortunately with COVID-19 the scams have gotten worse. During the coronavirus pandemic, many of our elders have been isolated making them easy targets for fraudsters. According to the Consumer Protection Bureau, elder fraud is a major problem even though banks, credit unions and investment firms are doing their best to combat it. The 70-79 age bracket alone averaged losses of $45,300.
Senator Baldwin was heartbroken when she heard about Edith Shorougian being scammed out of $80,000 from a trusted financial adviser and decided it was time to take action. Senator Baldwin said, “We need to protect our seniors who are especially vulnerable to fraud and abuse by bad actors, and protect the retirement savings they worked so hard over a lifetime to build.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul joined in to lead a a coalition of 44 attorney's general from across the United States supporting this measure. They are the ones who have been on the frontlines across America fighting against fraud and abuse against our elders.
In their recent letter to U.S. Senate and House Leadership they said, “Many seniors live on fixed incomes and savings earned over a lifetime of hard work. Older adults have contributed so much to our great nation, and it is simply wrong that many are losing life savings to criminals. Tragically, it is rare for seniors to receive compensation even after fraudsters are caught and convicted. Edith's Bill will take an important step in providing compensation to defrauded seniors, and it would do so without using taxpayer funds.”
Many of our governmental agencies are doing their best to inform seniors about fraud, but it is not enough to just inform older adults. The U.S, Department of Health and Human Services has taken the initiative to alert the public often about frauds related to the coronavirus. Chris Shrank, Assistant Inspector General for HHS, who knows the importance of always staying vigilant said, “Never let your guard down and protect yourself.” These tips will help protect your wallet:
- Scammers are praying on your COVID-19 fears and use texts, phone calls, social media and door to door tactics to steal your information.
- Always be cautious of unsolicited requests for information.
- Be suspicious of unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies.
- Be on the safe side and talk to your doctor to get COVID-19 testing or treatment.
- If you suspect fraud, take action by dialing 1- 800-HHS-TIPS (447-8477)
We encourage our members of Congress to support Edith's Bill. We hope our public officials heard Attorney General Landry's passionate plea on behalf of our vulnerable elders when he said, “Our elected officials in Washington should recognize this public safety crisis and cast aside partisan politics to deliver for our seniors, especially during these perilous times.” Clearly, this is the perfect time for our House and Senate members to step up and help our older vulnerable Americans who were swindled during the coronavirus pandemic.