WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Chairman Bob Casey (D-Pa.) held a hearing titled “Stopping Senior Scams: Empowering Communities to Fight Fraud.” Senators Scott and Casey examined the most common scams targeting older adults and released the Aging Committee’s annual Fraud Book in English and Spanish, detailing the top 10 scams reported to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline in 2021.
During the hearing, the senators highlighted the passage of their bipartisan Stop Senior Scams Act, which directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a federal advisory council charged with improving education and training efforts so that businesses and financial institutions can better identify and prevent scams. In one week, the FTC will convene its first meeting of the federal advisory council.
“Scams targeting our nation’s seniors — many of whom live on fixed incomes — are truly evil,” said Ranking Member Scott. “Our bipartisan Fraud Book aims to stop these heinous crimes before they occur by providing meaningful resources to those working to protect themselves and their loved ones. I am thankful for Mrs. Fehler’s courage to share her story at today’s hearing and am confident that, by working together, we can help other seniors just like her and stop scammers in their tracks.”
Ranking Member Scott invited Mrs. Polly Fehler, a retired Air Force officer and registered nurse, to speak about the computer scam which robbed her of $20,000. She testified, “After suffering through this scam, I was alone and depressed, even losing my spirit to live. For days I sat alone and hated myself for what happened; at times, not getting out of bed. I thought I lost all faith in God. I opted out of all community and church activities, committees, and leadership roles. I couldn’t function as the person I had been. I am here today because I’m a survivor. God is giving me the strength to reclaim my life! I hope we can prevent others from falling into this unmatched misery, saving others from falling into the darkness that comes with losing your self-worth and retirement savings in a click.”
“While predatory scams have existed for decades, the pandemic has exacerbated this issue, as fraudsters preyed on fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus to scam seniors out of their hard-earned savings. As scammers get smarter, it is vital that we combat this from all sides—from businesses and banks preventing scams in real time to seniors educating themselves with the annual Fraud Book. We must continue to arm older adults with the information they need to protect themselves from scammers, and root out and prevent these scams before they happen,” said Chairman Casey.
Chairman Casey invited Aurelia Costigan, a scam survivor from Pittsburgh, PA. Aurelia was called by a scammer posing as a representative from her bank who convinced her to download Zelle and scammed her out of $1,800. She testified, “It takes me a long time to earn money like that. I’m on Social Security, I have to save my money. Because sometimes your car breaks down or a medical expense comes up…I thought I was never going to get that money back. But thankfully, maybe a month or so later, my bank was able to get my money back – the full $1,800…But I know not everyone has that experience. These scammers get away with this every single day. Elderly people like myself, we are always the trusting type of people. But now, I tell people: don’t give absolutely any information about yourself to anyone on the telephone. I tell my friends and family my story as a warning. I tell them to be careful. I hope that we can do something so that this doesn’t happen to someone else.”