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 Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, NYS Senator Kevin Thomas, and Deputy Commissioner of the Nassau County Dept. of Human Services Office for the Aging Jorge Martinez.

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 Nassau 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 Nassau 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.”

"With scams targeting Seniors on the rise, I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for reintroducing federal legislation to ensure older adults and their caregivers have access to critical information about financial abuse and the tools they need to get help if they are victims of fraud. Nassau County is committed to working in partnership with our federal and state partners to keep Seniors safe, educated, and informed,” said Nassau County Executive Curran.

“Scams and other forms of financial exploitation are devastating for seniors, both financially and emotionally. We must do everything we can to prevent the growing barrage of scams and targeted financial exploitation of older adults, especially amid the economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Chair of Consumer Protection, I am proud to stand in support of Senator Gillibrand’s Senior Financial Empowerment Act, which will protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers by expanding consumer education efforts and enhancing cooperation between federal and state agencies that work on senior financial abuse issues,” said NYS Senator Kevin Thomas.

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.

Read the text of the bill here.

This legislation is endorsed by AARP and LeadingAge.