Stopping Senior Scams: Efforts to Prevent Fraud Targeting Older Americans Examined by Senate Aging Committee
Committee releases its 2018 Fraud Book outlining top 10 reported scams
Click HERE to read the Senate Aging Committee’s 2018 Fraud Book
Click HERE to watch
Washington, D.C. — According to the Government Accountability Office, financial fraud targeting older Americans is a growing epidemic that costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually. Seniors often do not report fraud because they do not know where to report it, are too ashamed to admit they have been scammed, or may not even know that they are victims. One of the top priorities of the Senate Aging Committee is to combat scams that target older Americans.
U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, updated the public about the committee’s efforts to combat scams targeting older Americans at a hearing today titled, “Stopping Senior Scams.”
The Committee officially released its 2018 Fraud Book at the hearing detailing the Top 10 scams reported to the committee’s Fraud Hotline last year. In 2017, the Committee’s Fraud Hotline received more than 1,400 complaints of frauds targeting seniors around the country, demonstrating the extent of this epidemic.
“This Committee’s dedication to fighting fraud against older Americans is raising awareness and it is making a real difference,” said Senator Collins. “Just two weeks ago, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 250 people with stealing more than a half billion dollars from more than a million Americans. This is the largest ever law enforcement action to protect our nation’s seniors from fraud.”
“It is our sacred responsibility to help keep seniors safe from scams and we must take aggressive action to ensure that not one more senior loses another penny to a con artist,” said Senator Casey. “I will continue to ensure that law enforcement has the resources necessary to punish perpetrators and we must strengthen our work with businesses to ensure they are another line of defense to help prevent assets from ever leaving the hands of unsuspecting victims.”
“We know that fraudsters use technology to target older people but, increasingly, we're seeing people of all ages affected," said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “This bipartisan effort to prevent senior scams is an important step in the ongoing battle to protect Americans of all ages from fraud. AARP thanks the Senate Aging Committee, especially Senators Collins and Casey, for their excellent work focusing on this crucial issue.”
Witnesses at this hearing included scam victims, senior fraud experts, and advocates who educate the public about scams targeting older Americans.
Stephen and Rita Shiman from Saco, ME, a couple who fell victim to a grandparent scam and now educate the public about their experience, spoke about the emotional and convincing nature of these scams. During his testimony, Mr. Shiman said, “Indeed, there is a special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. The scammers knew this well and took full advantage of it with my wife and myself. They knew that when a grandchild is in trouble, grandparents go all out to help.”
Mary Bach from Murrysville, PA, spoke about her work over the past 20 years as a lead volunteer with Pennsylvania AARP, chairing their Consumer Issues Task Force. She explained how her task force team consists of 15 volunteer members from across the commonwealth who are enthusiastic about educating people of all ages, but especially seniors, about current scams. Ms. Bach also highlighted AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, a nationwide program that warns seniors about scams. Consumers can sign up at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
Doug Shadel, the State Director of AARP Washington State testified about the current state of fraud targeting seniors and outlined that impostor scams are still the most prevalent. In the new age of technology, it is easier than ever for scammers to be someone they are not. Combining this ability with a tactic to incite fear or excitement upon their victim, paints a very convincing picture, one that has robbed many seniors of their hard-earned savings.
Adrienne Omansky from Los Angeles, CA, described how she formed the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program in 2009 after a discussion with the students in her commercial acting class about fraud they had experienced. Over the past few years, this volunteer group has grown significantly and performs in about 30 venues each year, from small veterans halls to the convention center. As part of her testimony, Ms. Omansky also showed a few clips of the PSAs her group has recorded. Ms. Omansky shared several of the lessons the members of her acting program have learned through their performances, including that seniors are often more comfortable learning about scams from their peers.
Today’s hearing was the third hearing this Congress—and the 12th in the past three years—that the Aging Committee has held examining scams affecting older Americans. These hearings examined notoriously widespread scams including the IRS imposter scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, computer tech support scams, grandparent scams, elder financial exploitation, and identity theft.
A copy of the Aging Committee’s 2018 Fraud Book can be found HERE.
Click HERE to read the witnesses’ testimony.