WASHINGTON, D.C. — On November 16, 2021, the House Committee on Financial Services passed legislation led by U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) — H.R. 5914, the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act — out of committee with bipartisan support. Gottheimer’s bipartisan bill will help stop financial scammers from targeting vulnerable seniors.
The bill will create a Senior Investor Protection Grant Program to be implemented by the SEC, which will work closely with state securities regulators to protect investors. The bill will help invest $10 million annually for the hiring of new investigative staff, help invest in technology and training for law enforcement and regulators and educate seniors on financial fraud.
Now voted out of the House Financial Services Committee and reported favorably, the bill can be considered by the full House.
According to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging released last Congress, 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. Additionally, only one in every twenty-four cases of elder abuse actually gets reported.
“More than 2.5 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials — costing more than 15,800 taxpayers at least $80 million since 2013. With this bill, we’re doing something about it,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Our seniors have given so much to this country. We should always have their backs and help protect them from predators who want to take advantage of them. It is incumbent on us to protect them from scammers and abuse.”
“I would like to thank Mr. Gottheimer for his work on this important topic, and frankly, the majority staff working with the minority staff to make this a bipartisan bill… we all believe fraud is wrong, we all believe that,” said Congressman Huizenga (MI-2) during the House Financial Services Committee markup. “Protecting investors, especially those most vulnerable to fraud and crime is a bipartisan issue… It’s especially important that we protect this population [Americans over the age of 65] against fraud and punish bad actors.”
Watch Gottheimer’s remarks today in the Financial Services Committee here.
Gottheimers remarks to the Financial Services Committee as prepared for delivery are below.
Since I took office, I’ve been committed to helping seniors save their hard-earned money for retirement, to help them cut their taxes and afford their prescription drugs, and to protecting Social Security and Medicare so that, at the end of the day, they can afford to stay in our communities — like in my home state of New Jersey — and enjoy their lives with their kids and their grandkids.
But, when it comes to scams, everyone knows the old saying: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
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.
According to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging released last Congress, 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 abuse actually ever gets reported.
And IRS impersonation calls and fraudulent tech support calls are among the most widely used and costly scams targeting all Americans, particularly older Americans.
In fact, more than 2.5 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials — costing more than 15,800 taxpayers at least $80 million since 2013.
More than 3 million Americans are victims of tech support scams, where scammers pretend to be with a reputable tech company and persuade seniors to provide personal and bank information.
My mom, bless her memory, was even a victim of one of these scammers: 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 during the depths of the pandemic, COVID scammers targeted older Americans with promises of quicker access to vaccines or pandemic relief benefits — preying on those whose only wish is to hug their family members again.
Today, we’re doing something about it, by marking up my bill — the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act — to help protect seniors from scams.
To help combat this growing issue of senior scams, my bill would establish a new federal grant program at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which would invest in state-led task forces dedicated to protecting our seniors from financial fraud. These task forces will be able to hire additional investigative staff, invest in equipment and training for regulators and law enforcement, and educate seniors on financial fraud.
With this work being able to take place at the state level, with more outreach to local communities and seniors, we can more fully fight back against those hucksters who are scamming our seniors.
There is nothing partisan about this, this is just standing by as Democrats and Republicans to protect our seniors. They have given so much to this country. We should always have their backs and help protect them from predators who want to take advantage of them. It is incumbent on us to protect them from scammers and abuse.
I urge my colleagues throughout this committee to vote yes on this commonsense piece of legislation. Thank you.