New York, NY – At a round table meeting with New York seniors, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the Senior Financial Empowerment Act, new legislation to protect seniors from financial fraud.
“Senior fraud is a destructive and dangerous crime, in which scammers prey on vulnerable citizens, steal their personal information, and harm them financially with very few consequences,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Under the current system, when seniors report these crimes, the information often isn’t shared with the proper authorities, and scammers are able to continue committing these crimes against other seniors. We need to do everything we can to prevent and fight back against senior fraud. This new legislation would give seniors the resources they need to be educated about this crime and the tools they need to get help if they have been a victim of fraud.”
Every year, it is estimated that tens of thousands of New York seniors are victims of financial scams and abuse. The Senior Financial Empowerment Act would ensure 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 financial exploitation of seniors before it happens.
“AARP commends Senator Gillibrand for showing leadership in tackling the already serious problem of elder financial exploitation – which will only get worse as our population ages unless we confront it. With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day and older Americans having worked a lifetime to accumulate assets they depend on, AARP looks forward to working with Senator Gillibrand and our other elected officials on bi-partisan solutions that help protect older New Yorkers and Americans from an often invisible but insidious and growing scourge,” said Beth Finkel, AARP New York State Director.
Lou-Ellen Barkan, President and CEO of CaringKind, said, “Senior citizens make up the fastest growing segment of the American population. And they are also some of the most vulnerable. We cannot ignore the fact that there are unscrupulous individuals who will prey upon the elderly with fraudulent schemes that exact incredible damage on them and their families, as well as on the community at large. No one is immune and those with dementia are more at risk of becoming victims of financial scams—including my own aging parents who fell victim to a scam that had both financial and emotional costs. I commend Senator Gillibrand for taking significant, practical steps to ensure that the community, senior service organizations, and older adults have the information and resources to put a stop to financial fraud and abuse.”
“Online fraud and scams are major barriers for seniors trying to join the digital mainstream,” said Thomas Kamber, executive director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS). “Knowledge is power, and Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will empower seniors to detect fraud, protect themselves, and prevent financial crimes before they occur.”
“New York StateWide Senior Action Council applauds Senator Gillibrand for taking on the problem of senior fraud and scams. As the number of retirees grow in this country at exponential rates, it is important to address their needs and adapt the infrastructure that is serving what will soon be fully 25% of our nation’s population. The Senior Financial Empowerment Act takes an innovative approach by creating an interdisciplinary program that will work to stop senior fraud through prevention, education, and services. In this age of automation and constant changes in the way that government and merchants conduct business, scams and frauds have taken on a larger life. Whether it is the tax scam, identity theft, medical ID thefts, deed thefts as well as outright robbery, at StateWide, we find that when we partner with as many government and community agencies as possible, we are more successful in getting optimal results. Reports on the cost of financial elder abuse to seniors range from $3billion to $36 billion a year. Either way, both figures and anything in between are staggering and wrong. We fully support Senator Gillibrand in this issue,” said Maria Alvarez, Executive Director of New York StateWide Senior Action Council.
“Carter Burden wholeheartedly supports Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to protect the safety and dignity of vulnerable seniors across the country. This legislation will have a major impact on the wellbeing of older adults, many of who already face issues like declining health, isolation, and poverty, and who are at risk of losing everything to these fraudulent schemes. Seniors are a precious resource and this legislation will allow organizations like Carter Burden to do even more to support and protect them and their families,” said William Dionne, Executive Director of The Carter Burden Center for the Aging.
“People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are especially vulnerable to financial fraud because the disease may prevent them from recognizing or reporting it,” said Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer. “The Alzheimer’s Association is pleased to support the Senior Financial Empowerment Act, which complements a key priority of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease to protect individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias from the many forms of elder abuse, including financial fraud.”
“Socioeconomic conditions are one of the broader determinants of healthy and active aging, and financial exploitation can be a significant risk to the wellbeing of all older people, especially those on a fixed income. The New York Academy of Medicine, which works to promote healthy and active aging, supports the Senior Financial Empowerment Act because it leverages a multi-pronged approach involving older citizens themselves in creating solutions and creates strong mechanisms to discover and respond to fraud and abuse. We believe this act will help to maintain the financial security and improve the wellbeing of older citizens,” said Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, President, The New York Academy of Medicine.
“The Hebrew Home at Riverdale and its Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention – the nation’s first emergency shelter for victims of elder abuse – applaud Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for introducing the Senior Financial Empowerment Act, a critical and timely piece of legislation. Financial abuse among elders is at epidemic proportions with no end in sight,” said Daniel Reingold, President and CEO of the Hebrew Home.
“We have worked with so many older adults who have fallen victim to scam artists who prey on their vulnerability and trusting nature, leaving them with empty bank accounts and an uncertain future,” said Joy Solomon, Director and Managing Attorney of the Weinberg Center.
Senator Gillibrand’s new plan would help protect New York seniors from financial fraud by:
- 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 adult’s increased vulnerability to scams;
- Designating a National Senior Fraud Awareness Week;
Senator Gillibrand plans to introduce this new legislation in the Senate in the coming days.