June 25, 2021

To Curb Rise Of Pandemic-Related Scams, Gillibrand, With Attorney General James, Announces Bipartisan Senior Financial Empowerment Act

Bill Ensures Seniors and Caregivers Have Access to Resources They Need to Combat and Report Fraud

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Special Committee on Aging, was joined by Attorney General Letitia James to announce her bipartisan Senior Financial Empowerment Act, which ensures that seniors and their caregivers have access to critical information regarding financial abuse. The bill would standardize and improve the way senior financial abuse is reported, establish a national hotline that would advise seniors on where and how to report fraud, and provide more resources to combat and prevent financial exploitation of seniors. It is estimated that millions of seniors across the country are victims of financial scams and abuse every year --- with scams related to COVID-19 alone costing consumers more than $460 million. In New York State alone, seniors are estimated to lose as much as $1.5 billion per year to financial fraud and abuse.

Gillibrand and James were joined by New York State Senator Sue Serino, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, East Fishkill Town Supervisor Nicholas D’Alessandro, and Assistant Vice President of the Hudson Valley Credit Union Lisa Morris.

Throughout the pandemic, the range of financial scams targeting seniors expanded as public health and economic anxiety grew. Fraudsters impersonated banks and lenders, offering support with utility bills, credit card debt and other financial burdens. Seniors account for nearly 1 in 5 Dutchess County residents.

“We need to do everything we can to protect older adults, and to prevent and fight back against fraud. Here in New York State, seniors are estimated to lose as much as 1.5 billion dollars a year to financial fraud and abuse, and nearly one in five Dutchess County residents are seniors. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Senior Financial Empowerment Act. This legislation would ensure that older adults and their caregivers have access to critical information regarding financial abuse and the tools they need to get help if they have been a victim of fraud,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our older adults should not have to worry about falling prey to these scams, and if they do, they need somewhere to turn. This legislation will help address the scourge of fraud and protect New York’s seniors and I will continue to fight until we can pass it.”

"Far too often, unscrupulous scammers exploit our seniors and cheat them out of their hard-earned savings,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “This type of financial abuse poses a significant threat to communities throughout Long Island, but we can take action to change that. The Senior Financial Empowerment Act provides critical tools to help us hold these fraudsters accountable for their actions and empowers seniors with the education and resources needed to safeguard the financial wellbeing. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue, and her partnership in ensuring our seniors can live out their golden years in peace.”

“Too often, I hear from frustrated New Yorkers who do not know where to turn when they, or a loved one, has been the victim of financial exploitation,” said New York State Senator Sue Serino, ranking members on the NYS Senate Aging Committee. “They are often met with red tape and dead ends that let scammers off the hook and leaves victims without recourse. While we have done significant work to prevent elder abuse and exploitation at the state level, I am glad to see this issue getting the national attention it deserves. Information is power, and I thank Senator Gillibrand for her effort to empower seniors and caregivers with this bipartisan legislation.”

“Dutchess County offers robust scam prevention education – working with our seniors to educate them on how to avoid being a victim and keep them advised of various scams, but it is a daunting challenge as new scams continue to emerge every day,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro. “We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for this important legislation that will provide additional resources to prevent our seniors from being victims of scams.”

It is wonderful to see bipartisanship especially when protecting our Seniors. We at the local level do whatever we can to protect our Seniors and happy to see this legislation introduced,” said East Fishkill Town Supervisor Nicholas D’Alessandro.

“This bill helps to shine a light on a terrible problem for our seniors,” said Lisa Morris, Assistant Vice President at Hudson Valley Credit Union. “Whether it’s by text, email, or phone, bad actors are targeting our vulnerable neighbors who need more information about how to avoid these scams. We join with Senator Gillibrand in the belief that this bill will provide more consumer education and provide easier ways for abuse and scams to be reported.”

This legislation would help protect seniors from financial fraud by doing the following: 

•    Centralizing services for consumer education and data on scams and fraud targeting seniors;

•    Improving reporting of suspected instances of elder financial abuse;

•    Educating certain entities regarding elder financial abuse;

•    Creating a grant program to prevent mail, telemarketing, and internet fraud;

•    Directing the National Institutes of Health to conduct scientific research on older adults’ increased vulnerability to scams; and

•    Designating a National Senior Fraud Awareness Week.

This legislation is endorsed by AARP and LeadingAge.

Read the full text of the bill here.