Above: Congressman Josh Gottheimer delivers remarks with two Fifth District seniors scammed by financial predators.
FAIR LAWN, NJ – Today, Monday, April 29, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) spoke alongside seniors targeted by financial scams announcing the bipartisan Senior Security Act, which will help stop financial predators from scamming seniors out of their savings by creating the Senior Investor Taskforce within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The bipartisan Senior Security Act is cosponsored by Congressmen Josh Gottheimer and Trey Hollingsworth (IN-9)
Since taking office, Congressman Gottheimer has been committed to helping seniors save their hard-earned money for retirement, so they can afford to stay in New Jersey and enjoy their lives with their kids and grandkids. Unfortunately, there are millions of seniors across the country who have been the victims of financial scams and abuses that have cheated them out of their rightful retirement.
“It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s unacceptable. We are here today to do something about it,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Tomorrow, we will be voting on the Senior Security Act, my bipartisan legislation that will take on senior fraud and scams head on and will help the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors crack down on these senior-preying hucksters.”
The bipartisan Senior Security Act will stop financial predators from scamming seniors out of their savings, by finding ways to strengthen protections and safeguards for seniors, and by creating a Senior Investor Taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission that will exclusively focus on how seniors are being targeted by fraudsters and those who seek to take financial advantage of them. The Taskforce will also submit a biannual report to Congress.
“The SEC will be able to crack down on bad actors like never before,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “My legislation will make these enforcements even more common by giving law enforcement stronger tools and information via the Senior Investor Taskforce.”
According to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging released this year, older Americans lose approximately $3 billion each year to financial scams and abuse. A separate survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that approximately 7 million Americans have reported being victims of exploitation, but only 1 in every 24 cases of elder exploitation actually gets reported.
Video of the event can be found here.
Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Thank you, Ms. Ursetti and Ms. Blauschild, for sharing your experience with all of us today. It’s heartbreaking to hear firsthand about how fraudsters and scammers have gone after your hard-earned savings. No senior, especially here in New Jersey, should ever have to worry that picking up the phone could mean being scammed out of thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, for too many members of our communities, that’s exactly what is happening, and it’s something that I hear about far too often. Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams and they have been cheated out of their rightful retirement.
It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s unacceptable. We are here today to do something about it. Tomorrow, we will be voting on the Senior Security Act, my bipartisan legislation that will take on senior fraud and scams head on and will help the Security Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors crack down on these senior-preying hucksters.
Here are a few disturbing facts that give you a sense of how significant an issue this problem is: According to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging released this year, older Americans lose approximately $3 billion each year to financial scams and abuse.
A separate survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that approximately seven million Americans have reported being victims of exploitation. And that’s only what’s being reported. Only one in every twenty-four cases of elder exploitation actually gets reported.
There are also a number of senior-specific scams that are only increasing in frequency. IRS impersonation calls and fraudulent tech support calls are among the most widely used and costly scams targeting all Americans, especially older Americans.
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, more than 2.4 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials. Since 2013, more than 14,700 taxpayers have lost at least $72.8 million from this type of scam alone.
Microsoft estimates that more than 3 million Americans are victims of technical support scams, where scammers pretend to be with a reputable tech company and persuade seniors to provide personal and bank information.
Scammers make unsolicited and threatening phone calls, attempting to extract information or money from unsuspecting victims. Some scammers claim to be family members, including grandchildren – and they use personal data and even voice impersonation to sound convincing. Other scammers claim to be from the IRS and they’ll say that you owe back taxes or other fees, sometimes even threatening these victims with arrest unless they provide money via prepaid debit cards, gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers.
It’s disgusting, and you can imagine how scary or heart-wrenching that is for a grandparent. That’s exactly what happened to my own mom; someone claiming to be an IRS agent threatened her. I remember, she called me and claimed that I messed up on her tax return.
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which specifically investigates incidents of IRS impersonation, has referred to this scam as “the largest and most pervasive scam in our agency’s history.” The IRS has repeatedly warned about these phone scam among its “Dirty Dozen” list of scams that peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or hire someone to help them with their taxes.
Even more disturbing is data showing these scams are successfully and increasingly targeting seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes after working their entire lives to support their families and save for retirement, only to be cheated out of the dollars they’ve worked so hard to earn.
As your Representative in Congress, I am committed to fighting back against scammers who prey on our friends, families, and neighbors. And I’m committed to helping seniors save their hard-earned money for retirement, so they can afford to stay in New Jersey and enjoy their lives with their kids and grandkids.
We all know that tax season has been difficult enough for seniors and New Jersey residents who face higher taxes after the Tax Hike Bill gutted the State and Local Tax Deduction, or SALT. It’s why I’m fighting so hard to reinstate SALT and claw back more of our federal tax dollars back to New Jersey, so we can actually get some tax relief.
The last thing our community needs right now is heightened risk of fraud from scammers looking to take advantage of us.
After hearing about cases like Ms. Ursetti’s, Ms. Blauschild’s, and from other seniors across the Fifth District, I couldn’t bear to watch our seniors continue to be attacked by fraudsters and scammers any longer. That’s why I introduced, along with Republican Congressman Hollingsworth, the bipartisan Senior Security Act, which we will be debating and voting on tomorrow.
The Senior Security Act will strengthen protections and safeguards for seniors and help stop financial predators from scamming seniors out of their savings. First, the Senior Security Act will create a Senior Investor Taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission that will exclusively focus on how seniors are being targeted by fraudsters and those who seek to take financial advantage of them.
This new Taskforce will identify challenges that senior investors encounter and will identify areas within the SEC or self-regulatory organizations where senior investors would benefit from changes.
The Senior Investor Taskforce will also coordinate with other offices within the Commission and the Elder Justice Coordinating Council. And, when appropriate, the Taskforce will consult state securities and law enforcement and state insurance regulators – to ensure we’re all doing as much as we can, at every level of government, to stop this.
With the additional help of the Senior Investor Taskforce, the SEC will be able to crack down on bad actors like never before.
In April 2018, the SEC charged a company called the Lifepay Group with violating antifraud provisions of federal securities laws after it was involved in a scam that targeted seniors and stole almost two and a half million dollars out of their retirement savings with baseless promises and claims of outsized investment returns.
My legislation will make these enforcements even more common by giving law enforcement stronger tools and information via the Senior Investor Taskforce.
Second, every two years, the Taskforce will submit a report to Congress outlining trends and innovations that are impacting the investment for senior investors. This will keep a cop on the beat to make sure we keep up with changes in financial scams. The report will also include recommendations for changes to rules of the SEC or other organizations, and any legislative actions needed to resolve senior investors’ problems.
I’m also happy to announce that this bipartisan Senior Security Act has the support of
SIFMA – the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, as well as NASAA – the North American Securities Administrators Association.
Finally, I’d like to share a few tips. I am urging all of us to come together to help stop scams, to help protect our friends and neighbors, and to sound the alarm on this issue, so it’s front of mind.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment, make sure you never pay a fine right away. The real IRS will not demand immediate payment, and they will always send you a written notice. The agency also never accepts payments in the form of Western Union or gift cards. And most importantly, the IRS never even initiates contact over the phone. So, if you get a call like that, tell someone you know and confirm it.
In addition, if you receive a call from someone who sounds threatening, hang up the phone right away. The IRS will never call to threaten arrest, so you should immediately hang up the phone. Don’t engage these people, because you don’t know who is on the other end of the line.
Please share tips these tips with your neighbors and ask them if they’ve received similar calls if you notice something funny.
In today’s environment, working together—whether that’s across the aisle, across the country, or across generations—is the only way to keep our communities safe. That spirit and attitude is what America is all about, in the greatest country in the world, and that’s thanks, in no small part, to the work of your generation.
You all have given us so much. We should make sure your Social Security and Medicare are there for you, that your prescription drugs are more affordable. I’ll always have your backs and I will ensure you all have the help you need to stay here, and to protect you from those who seek to take advantage of you.
We all know this is going to take a fight. I’m hopeful that, with the Senior Security Act, we will help create real and lasting change, and I will be here, fighting by your side, every step of the way.
Thank you, God bless you, God bless this great nation, and let’s get to work.