Gottheimer Sounds Alarm on Phone Scams, Proposes Stop Senior Scams Plan & New Hotline

Apr 09, 2018
Press

Huge Increase of IRS Senior Tax Scams ahead of April 15th

Today, Congressman Gottheimer announced his Stop Senior Scams Plan at Atrium Senior Living in Park Ridge, N.J.

During Fiscal Year 2017, more than 12,000 victims reported over $60 million in total monetary losses nationwide due to the IRS impersonation scam. And New Jersey is one of the top six hardest hit states in the country, with victims suffering reported financial losses of more than $2.6 million.

His plan focuses on:
Demanding that our government double down on these IRS impersonation scams and take urgent action to protect American consumers from sophisticated scammers looking to take advantage of them.
• Establishing a new Senior Scam Hotline to solicit individual cases from seniors who have been scammed so we can elevate their cases to the right federal agencies to take aggressive action. Gottheimer’s office has senior caseworkers standing by ready to help. To report a suspicious call, please contact Gottheimer’s Senior Scam Hotline at (800) 974-1301 or at SeniorsHotline@mail.house.gov.
• Calling for the immediate passage of the bipartisan Senior Safe Act to allow our financial institutions and our financial advisors to report senior exploitation when they see it
• Encouraging vigilance about not falling for scams and sounding the alarm on the issue so it rises to top of everyone’s consciousness, particularly during tax filing season

Below: Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) greets seniors at Atrium Senior Living before announcing his Stop Senior Scams Plan


Below: Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announcing his Stop Senior Scams Plan

Melanie Hazim, Director of Outreach for Consumer Affairs at the State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Adelina Herrarte, attorney from the Northeast New Jersey Legal Services Elder Justice Project, and Lorraine Joewono, Director of the Bergen County Division of Senior Services, joined Gottheimer to discuss scams targeting seniors in North Jersey.

Gottheimer’s letter to the FTC Chairman can be found HERE.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

We should not have to worry that picking up the phone, believing you are talking to someone from our government, could mean being scammed out of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, for too many members of our communities that’s exactly what has happened.

IRS impersonation calls are among the most widely used and costly scams targeting all Americans, and especially senior citizens.

Scammers, posing as IRS employees, make unsolicited and threatening phone calls, attempting to extract information or money from unsuspecting victims by claiming they 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.

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which 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.

During Fiscal Year 2017, more than 12,000 victims reported over $60 million in total monetary losses nationwide due to the IRS impersonation scam. And New Jersey is one of the top six hardest hit states in the country, with victims suffering reported financial losses of more than $2.6 million.

The AARP’s Foundation and Fraud Watch Network says that this is their “number one reported fraud right now,” and they are concerned that it will only get more sophisticated.

Even more disturbing is data showing these IRS 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 funds they’ve worked so hard to earn. According to AARP, seniors lose $3 billion each year in savings due to scams.

This is simply unacceptable. As your Representative in Congress, I am committed to fighting back against scammers who prey on our friends, family, and neighbors.

We all know that Tax season can be difficult enough for seniors and New Jersey residents who face uncertainty or even higher taxes after the recently passed Tax Hike Bill eliminated our state and local tax deduction, creating, in effect, a seven percentage point increase on many taxpayers in the Fifth District.

But the last thing our community needs right now is heightened risk of fraud from scammers looking to take advantage of us by posing as IRS officials. As we approach the tax filing deadline, North Jersey residents need to be on alert that scammers use uncertainty surrounding the tax code and what residents owe as a ploy to extract their personal information or to demand new payments.

That’s why today I am putting out an All Seniors Alert and announcing my Stopping Senior Scam Plan to combat these fraudulent scams.

As the very first step, today I am sending letter to Maureen Ohlhausen, Acting Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the nation’s consumer protection agency – demanding that our government double down on these IRS impersonation scams and take urgent action to protect American consumers from sophisticated scammers looking to take advantage of them. This Administration needs to adopt a comprehensive, interagency commitment to cracking down on these highly effective impersonation scams, led by the FTC.

The highly effective IRS impersonation scam is putting a strain on already-limited resources that we need for programs like the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s audits and investigations. Proposing cuts to this and other programs, as this Administration did in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget, is a step in the wrong direction, and would limit our ability to take on these scammers when we need to pursue every available solution to protect our seniors, our community, and our state.

If anything, the federal government should allocate more resources and a smart plan to protect seniors during this time of uncertainty surrounding the tax hike bill.

That is why I am requesting detailed information on how the FTC is helping consumers protect themselves during tax season, any recommendations the FTC has for Congress to help improve enforcement, and how the FTC partners with state agencies such as the New Jersey Office of Consumer Protection to address these troubling financial crimes.

Our seniors deserve to know what our government is doing to protect them and what additional steps can be taken to step up the fight.

Second, as of today, my office is establishing a new Senior Scam Hotline to solicit individual cases from seniors who have been scammed so we can elevate their cases to the right federal agencies to take aggressive action. Given the scope and seriousness of this problem, my office has senior caseworkers standing by ready to help. To report a suspicious call, please contact my Senior Scam Hotline at (800) 974-1301 or email us at SeniorsHotline@mail.house.gov.

Third, I’m calling for the immediate passage of the bipartisan Senior Safe Act to allow our financial institutions and our financial advisors to report senior exploitation when they see it. As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, I’m proud to have helped get it through committee as a cosponsor and to have voted for it on the House floor, but this bill is too important to languish in the halls of Congress any longer. Let’s get it done.

Fourth and finally, I am urging all of us to come together to be vigilant about not falling for scams, to help protect our friends and neighbors, and to sound the alarm on this issue so it rises to top of everyone’s consciousness, particularly now, as we close out tax filing season.

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. 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.

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 immediately hang up the phone. Don’t engage these people because you don’t know who is on the other end of the line.

Share 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 and that’s thanks to the work of your generation.

We all know this is not going to be easy. We all know this is going to take a fight. When someone can download an app to change the area code of their phone number and call from a familiar-looking number, you know it’s going to take more than just caution to create change once and for all.

I’m hopeful that we will succeed in creating real and lasting change, and I will be here, fighting by your side, every step of the way.

Thank you, god bless you, and let’s get to work.

Recent Posts


May 20, 2024
Press

RELEASE: In Cherry Hill, Gottheimer Continues His Advocacy Against Deceptive, Anti-Choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers in NJ

More than 50 misleading Crisis Pregnancy Centers across NJ Stopping dangerous mis- and disinformation about reproductive healthcare Above: Gottheimer in front of an anti-choice clinic posing as a legitimate healthcare provider. CHERRY HILL, NJ — Today, Monday, May 20, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) sounded the alarm on anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) posing […]



May 16, 2024
Press

RELEASE: Gottheimer, Hill Lead Bipartisan Letter of 51 Members

Urges Treasury and State Departments to Designate and Sanction UNRWA Employees Involved in the October 7 Terrorist Attacks WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Thursday, May 16, 2024, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and French Hill (AR-2) led a lettersigned by a group of 51 bipartisan Members of Congress to Treasury and State Departments to take action against the […]



May 16, 2024
Press

RELEASE: Gottheimer Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Support Victims of Terrorism

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Thursday, May 16, 2024, U.S. Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Dan Goldman (NY-10), and Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral American Victims of Terror Compensation Act, which provides funding for the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, or USVSST Fund. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) […]