RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Steps for Senior Security Strategy to Combat Financial Scams

House Passes Gottheimer-led Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Senior Financial Exploitation — Introducing Bipartisan Senior Scam Bills

Feb 03, 2023
Press

MIDLAND PARK, NJ

Above: Gottheimer joined by local seniors and officials to announce new steps to his Senior Security Strategy.

Today, February 3, 2023, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new steps as part of his Senior Security Strategy — to help end financial scams targeting our seniors.

Bergen County has the largest population of people aged 60 and over in the state — with more than 200,000, accounting for more than 20% of the county’s population.

Senior scams, which can include harassing robocalls and phone calls impersonating the government, cost older Americans more than $36 billion a year according to the National Council on Aging. According to the AARP, senior scams have more than doubled since 2020.

Americans have also lost more than $23 million dollars by giving out information and money to criminals impersonating the IRS.

Gottheimer’s Senior Security Strategy takes key steps to help protect older Americans in New Jersey and nationwide from getting scammed out of their hard-earned money.   

New steps Gottheimer announced today for his Senior Security Strategy:

  • This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed critical bipartisan legislation — co-led by Gottheimer — the Financial Exploitation Prevention ActThe bipartisan Financial Exploitation Prevention Act passed the House by a sweeping vote of 419 to 0. This bipartisan bill will require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to report to Congress with recommendations on how to combat financial exploitation of seniors and vulnerable adults. It will also create better protections by allowing investment companies, including mutual funds, to delay the selling of a security, like a stock, if they believe it was fraudulently requested to exploit a senior.
  • Gottheimer will be introducing his bipartisan legislation, the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act,which will do more to educate and better protect seniors from these financial scams: The bipartisan legislation will create a new Senior Investor Protection Grant Program to support state enforcement agencies and task forces to protect and educate seniors on financial fraud. They will be able to hire additional investigative staff, invest in equipment and training for law enforcement, and educate seniors on financial scams. This bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly out of the House last year.
  • Gottheimer will be introducing his bipartisan legislation, the Senior Security Act:. This bill passed the House last year and will create a Senior Investor Taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that will examine how seniors are being targeted by fraudsters who seek to take financial advantage of them. Every two years, the Taskforce will be required to submit a report to Congress outlining trends and innovations — like robocalls and voice spoofing — that are impacting senior investors, helping us stay ahead of changes in financial scams as they arise.
  • In 2019, Gottheimer helped pass the bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, known as the TRACED Act, which requires phone companies to verify that the caller ID matches the caller’s real phone number. It also requires companies to offer call-authentication technology, as well as opt-in or opt-out robocall blocking to consumers at no additional charge. This new effort has resulted in countless fines for providers hosting robocalls, helped put an end to international robocallers reaching Americans’ phones, and is helping improve blocking tools to protect families from dangerous robocalls and robotexts.

“Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams, and far too many have been cheated out of their retirement savings. Can you imagine what type of person would try to steal from a senior? I don’t know how they sleep at night. It’s despicable,” said Congressman Josh Gottheiemer (NJ-5), a member of the House Financial Services Committee.“It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear — day in and day out — how fraudsters and hucksters have gone after our seniors’ 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. Seniors need a cop on the beat and we’re here today to do something about it.”

Gottheimer was joined at the Northwest Bergen County Senior Center in Midland Park today by Midland Park Mayor Harry Shortway, Midland Park Councilwoman Nancy Cronk Peet, Deputy Director of Bergen County Division of Senior Services Kerri Sherer, and local Bergen County seniors.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer announcing new steps to his new Senior Security Strategy at the Northwest Bergen County Senior Center.

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Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I want to begin with a moment of silence to remember the life of the 16-year-old boy we tragically lost yesterday in a house fire here in Midland Park. May his memory be a blessing.

I’m praying for those who were injured and want to thank our Midland Park first responders and firefighters for quickly responding to the scene and putting out the fire.

It’s good to be back in Midland Park at the Northwest Bergen County Senior Center.

Bergen County has the largest population of folks 60 and over in the state — more than 200,000 — that’s more than 20 percent of Bergen’s population.

It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear — day in and day out — how fraudsters and hucksters have gone after our seniors’ 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.

Folks in Jersey over 60 are the number one target in the country of scams, and those scams come in all shapes and sizes. Harassing robocalls, forged documents, stolen Social Security checks, hucksters impersonating grandchildren, the IRS, your bank or credit card company, and even the FBI.

These senior scams cost older Americans more than $36 billion a year according to the National Council on Aging, often hitting their retirement nest eggs — not to mention the pain and anxiety that you can’t put a price tag on. According to the AARP, senior scams have more than doubled since 2020.

That’s why I’m here today, to announce new steps as part of my Senior Security Strategy — to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to end financial scams targeting our seniors. More than ever before, action is needed to stop these senior scams.

Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams, and far too many have been cheated out of their retirement savings. Can you imagine what type of person would try to steal from a senior? I don’t know how they sleep at night. It’s despicable.

A survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that about seven million Americans reported being a victim of financial exploitation. What’s worse is that only one in every forty-two cases of elder exploitation actually gets reported. And it’s not just those posing as Social Security Administration agents. 

IRS impersonation calls and fraudulent tech support calls are among the most widely used and costly scams targeting older Americans. In fact, Americans have lost more than $23 million dollars by giving out information and money to criminals impersonating the IRS.

They’ll say that you owe back taxes or other fees, sometimes even threatening these victims with arrest unless they provide money with prepaid debit cards, gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers. 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. And my mom wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet. Luckily, we figured it out and stopped that “IRS agent” in his tracks. But how many others actually paid it?

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has referred to this as “the largest and most pervasive scam in our agency’s history.”

Microsoft also estimates that more than 3 million Americans are victims of technical support scams, where scammers over email or on the phone pretend to be with a reputable tech company and persuade seniors to provide personal and bank information. These folks live on fixed incomes. After working their entire lives to support their families and save for retirement, they get cheated out of the dollars they’ve worked so hard to earn.

Some scammers claim to be family members, including grandchildren – and they use personal data and even voice impersonation to sound convincing. The technology exists today to sound just like your grandson or granddaughter calling you for help with an emergency. The caller, pretending to be little Tommy, knows details about you and them from the Internet. Can you imagine how scary or heart-wrenching that is for a grandparent?

It’s appalling. It’s unacceptable. And it’s flat-out heartbreaking and destructive for families. Seniors need a cop on the beat and we’re here today to do something about it.

My Senior Security Strategy is just that cop on the beat we need — and we’re now taking new, concrete steps to help protect older Americans in Jersey from getting scammed out of their hard-earned money.

First, this week, the House passed critical bipartisan legislation I led to give the financial industry better tools to address suspected financial exploitation and abuse of seniors and those with mental and physical disabilities. The bipartisan Financial Exploitation Prevention Act passed the House by a sweeping vote of 419 to 0. Not many bills pass like that these days.

Many of our seniors have been investing for years to prepare for retirement, but far too often the financial industry is unable to take swift action following a suspected financial scam because of red tape.  

This bipartisan bill will require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to report to Congress with recommendations on how to combat financial exploitation of seniors and vulnerable adults.

It will also create better protections by allowing investment companies, including mutual funds, to delay the selling of a security, like a stock, if they believe it was fraudulently requested to exploit a senior.

We need to make sure investment companies are able to quickly stop a scammer in their tracks if there is any suspicious activity, because we all know it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I’m urging my colleagues in the Senate to take immediate action on this bipartisan bill to give seniors the critical tools needed to fight scammers. Pass it immediately. Get it to the President’s desk.

Second, in the coming days, I’ll be introducing my bipartisan legislation, the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act, which will do more to educate and better protect seniors from these financial scams. The bipartisan legislation, that was co-sponsored by Republican Congressmen Bill Huizenga and Brian Fitzpatrick, will create a new Senior Investor Protection Grant Program to support state enforcement agencies and task forces to protect and educate seniors on financial fraud. They will be able to hire additional investigative staff, invest in equipment and training for law enforcement, and educate seniors on financial scams. This bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly out of the House last year but sat in the Senate.

I’m confident that with this work at the state level and with more outreach to local communities and seniors, we can more fully fight back against those hucksters who are scamming our seniors.

But the fight doesn’t stop there.

Third, this new legislation builds on my bipartisan, bicameral legislation called the Senior Security Act that passed the House last year. I will also be introducing this bipartisan bill with Republican cosponsor Congresswoman Ann Wagner in the coming weeks.

The Senior Security Act will create a Senior Investor Taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that will examine how seniors are being targeted by fraudsters who seek to take financial advantage of them. Every two years, the Taskforce will be required to submit a report to Congress outlining trends and innovations — like robocalls and voice spoofing — that are impacting senior investors, helping us stay ahead of changes in financial scams as they arise.

Our seniors should be spending time with their kids, grandkids, and friends — not staying up late at night worrying about whether someone is preying on their retirement nest egg.

Finally, and finally, as part of our Senior Security Strategy, we must do everything we can to go after the tools these hucksters are using, and stop them from impersonating the Social Security Administration, the IRS, the FBI – you name it.  Every few weeks, when I get a call from someone who fell prey to a shameless huckster, there’s often a robocall somewhere involved in that scam.

Not only are they beyond annoying, as we all know, but they’re often used to lure older Americans into a financial scam.

Americans received more than 50 billion robocalls in 2022.

Over the last few years, we’ve taken concrete action in Congress. In 2019, I helped pass the bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, known as the TRACED Act, which requires phone companies to verify that the caller ID matches the caller’s real phone number. It also requires companies to offer call-authentication technology, as well as opt-in or opt-out robocall blocking to consumers at no additional charge. And it helps the enforcing agency, the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC, to trace-back and cut-off suspect phone companies responsible for sending vast numbers of unlawful robocalls.

This new effort has resulted in countless fines for providers hosting robocalls, helped put an end to international robocallers reaching Americans’ phones, and is helping improve blocking tools to protect families from dangerous robocalls and robotexts. That said, we are all still receiving calls and texts. More must be done — and we are working on that.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few tips.

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 never 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. Most importantly, the IRS never even initiates contact over the phone. So, if you get a call like that, contact the authorities.

Also, 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.

We all know someone who’s been scammed — whether that’s a senior in your family, a friend, colleague, or in your neighborhood. This is a pervasive national issue that must be addressed.

Helping seniors isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a what’s good for Jersey issue. It is incumbent on us to protect them from scammers and abuse. That’s what these new steps for my Senior Security Strategy are all about.

Our seniors have given us so much. We should make sure their Social Security and Medicare are there for them and that their prescription drugs are more affordable. We need to restore the State and Local Tax Deduction, or SALT, and keep working to lower property taxes to make living here more affordable, so they can stay in Jersey near their kids and grandkids. And we should look after our veterans, cops, and firefighters to keep our communities safe.

By all of us working together to protect seniors, I know our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.

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