Kennebunk Police Officer Testifies before Senate Aging Committee on Senior Fraud and Financial Scams
Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement
Washington, D.C. – A fraud case involving Candice Simeoni’s own grandfather during her first year as a law enforcement officer with the Kennebunk Police Department sparked her passion to protect seniors from scams.
At a Senate Aging Committee hearing this morning chaired by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Officer Simeoni explained how she has worked to combat elder abuse over her 15-year career in law enforcement. She also founded the York County Elder Abuse Task Force in 2005 when she recognized that a multidisciplinary approach was needed to address the epidemic of scams. Officer Simeoni, who was invited to testify by Senator Collins, has worked on an astonishing 77 elder justice cases in the past year alone ranging from the loss of hundreds of dollars to entire estates. Three of her cases have been referred to the local district attorney.
“Over my law enforcement career, I've had the opportunity to complete extensive training in the field of elder abuse,” said Officer Simeoni. “I'm proud to have been part of numerous advances in combating elder abuse over the past 15 years. I have a true passion for being the voice of our vulnerable populations, primarily our elderly and those with disabilities.”
“Officer Simeoni has been a leader in fighting fraud against Maine seniors, working on nearly 80 elder justice cases in the past year alone,” said Senator Collins. “I am so proud of her exceptional efforts to help seniors who have been scammed as well as educate older Americans and her fellow law enforcement officers on how to prevent fraud.”
“Combatting fraud has long been a focus of my Committee. This is the 22nd hearing the Aging Committee has held in the past six years to examine scams affecting older Americans,” Senator Collins continued. “Stopping these scam artists requires a coordinated response from all levels of our government and the private sector, but alert citizens will always be the best line of defense. The Committee’s work has helped inform seniors and put criminals on notice that they will be caught and brought to justice.”
During the hearing, Senator Collins unveiled the Aging Committee’s 2019 Fraud Book, which details the top 10 most common scams reported to the Committee’s Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) over the past year. Senator Collins pointed out that one of the commonalities of these scams is that many seniors have trouble ending conversations with con artists because they feel it is rude to simply hang up the phone. She asked Officer Simeoni if she had any suggestions for seniors who suspect the person on the other end of the line is a scammer.
Officer Simeoni told the Committee that scammers take advantage of seniors’ politeness and can be charismatic or threatening. Last night, Officer Simeoni learned that a Kennebunk senior was scammed out of nearly $5,000 because they felt harassed and intimidated.
“I wish I could talk to every elder and let them know that it's okay to hang up and it's okay to protect yourself in a way where you just hang up the phone,” Officer Simeoni said.
As the president of the York County Elder Abuse Task Force, Officer Simeoni has assembled a group of committed professionals from an array of fields who share their knowledge and serve as a resource to educate the public. Their efforts include:
- Coordinating senior safety roadshows to give 30 minute talks on current scams in the local area;
- Partnering with local law enforcement and town General Assistance representatives when meeting with residents; and
- Hosting a very successful conference focused on the importance of the multidisciplinary approach to elder abuse.
In addition, Officer Simeoni instructs a session on elder abuse at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for all cadets who become law enforcement officers in the State of Maine.
As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, one of Senator Collins’ top priorities is to combat scams that target seniors. Last year, the Senior $afe Act, a bipartisan bill Senator Collins authored with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), was signed into law. This new law will provide support to regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate their employees about how to identify and prevent financial exploitation. Senator Collins also joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in introducing the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act that passed the Senate last Congress, which would help fight scams by educating seniors about fraud schemes and improving monitoring and response to fraud complaints. That bill will be reintroduced soon.
The Senate Aging Committee operates a toll-free Fraud Hotline (1-855-303-9470) for people to report being victimized by scam artists or to receive assistance if they think they are being scammed. Each year, the Committee releases an updated Fraud Book, which exposes the tactics scammers use in the top 10 most common scams reported to the Hotline and provides tips on ways for seniors to protect themselves. Last year, the Hotline received more than 1,500 calls from nearly every state, including more than 480 from Maine. Once again, the IRS impersonation scam, where criminals pretending to work for the IRS call unsuspecting victims and demand payment of supposed back taxes, was the most reported scam.