Above: Gottheimer announces how his bipartisan Senior Security Act will help protect seniors nationwide from financial scams.
PARAMUS, NJ – Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) spoke alongside North Jersey senior residents and local officials ahead of his bipartisan bill — H.R.1565, the Senior Security Act — being voted on today by the U.S. House of Representatives. Gottheimer’s legislation will help stop financial predators from scamming seniors out of their savings by creating a federal Senior Investor Taskforce within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to strengthen protections and safeguards for senior investors.
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will be leading companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“No senior 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 is exactly what’s happening. Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams and they’ve been cheated out of their rightful retirement. It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s unacceptable,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) today, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. “This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on the Senior Security Act, my bipartisan legislation that will take senior fraud and scams head on, by helping the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors crack down on senior-preying hucksters nationwide.”
Gottheimer held a press conference today, outside local North Jersey senior care facility CareOne at The Cupola, joined by Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella, Bergen County Senior Services Director Lorraine Joewono, local Fifth District senior Daniella Jordan-Mays, and Chris Gerold, Chief of the NJ Bureau of Financial Securities and member of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) board of directors.
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. According to a survey from the Investor Protection Trust, approximately 7 million Americans have reported being victims of exploitation. However, only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse actually get reported.
Fraudulent IRS impersonation and tech support calls are among the common and costly scams. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, more than 2.5 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials. Since 2013, more than 15,800 taxpayers have lost at least $80 million from this type of scam alone. Furthermore, 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.
The Senior Security Act (H.R.1565) will establish the Senior Investor Taskforce at the SEC, which will:
- Identify challenges that senior investors encounter, including problems associated with financial exploitation and cognitive decline;
- Identify areas in which senior investors would benefit from changes at the Commission or the rules of self-regulatory organizations;
- Coordinate, as appropriate, with other offices within the Commission and other taskforces that may be established within the Commission, self-regulatory organizations, and the Elder Justice Coordinating Council; and
- Consult, as appropriate, with state securities and law enforcement authorities, state insurance regulators, and other federal agencies.
The Taskforce will submit a biennial report to Congress that includes:
- Summary of recent trends and innovations that have impacted the investment landscape for senior investors;
- Summary of initiatives that have concentrated on senior investors and industry practices related to senior investors;
- Key observations, best practices, and areas needing improvement, involving senior investors identified during examinations, enforcement actions, and investor education outreach;
- Summary of the most serious issues encountered by senior investors, including issues involving financial products and services; and
- Recommendations for such changes to the rules or guidance of the Commission and self-regulatory organizations and such legislative actions to resolve problems encountered by senior investors.
Gottheimer’s bipartisan Senior Security Act has four original cosponsors: Representatives Trey Hollingsworth (IN-9), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Sean Casten (IL-6), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1).
Find the bill text of H.R.1565, the Senior Security Act of 2021, HERE.
Watch video of today’s press conference HERE.
Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
I’m here today because it is absolutely heartbreaking to hear — day in and day out — how fraudsters and scammers 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.
Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams and they’ve 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. This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on the Senior Security Act — my bipartisan legislation that will take on senior fraud and scams head on, by helping the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors crack down on senior-preying hucksters nationwide.
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. Here are just a few appalling facts:
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 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, particularly older Americans.
According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, more than 2.5 million Americans have been targeted by scammers impersonating IRS officials. Since 2013, more than 15,800 taxpayers have lost at least $80 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. And my mom wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet.
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 — like right now — 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.
To help protect North Jersey, 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 is 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. That’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 cut taxes for our residents.
The last thing our community needs is heightened risk of fraud from scammers looking to take advantage of us.
After hearing about scamming issues from seniors cases 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 the bipartisan Senior Security Act, cosponsored by Republican Congressman Hollingsworth, which we will be debating and voting on in Washington later today.
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 (SEC) 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 SEC 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 2018, the SEC charged a company called the Lifepay Group with violating antifraud provisions of federal securities laws after the company 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 new Senior Investor Taskforce.
Second, every two years, the Taskforce will submit a report to Congress outlining trends and innovations that are impacting senior investors. This will keep a cop on the beat to make sure we keep up with changes in financial scams, and to be ahead of new issues as they arise. The report will also include recommendations for changes to the rules within the SEC or other organizations, and legislative action that our government needs to take to resolve senior investors’ problems.
Finally, I’d like to share a few tips: I’m 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 — especially this 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, 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.
Please share these tips with your neighbors and ask them if they’ve received similar calls, so we can all remain vigilant against these scams.
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 is what America is all about, in the greatest country in the world, and that’s thanks, in no small part, to the hard work our seniors have and continue to put into this nation.
They’ve given us so much. We should make sure their Social Security and Medicare are there for them, that their prescription drugs are more affordable, and that they have access to the vaccine.
I’ll always have your backs and I’m committed to helping ensure our seniors have the help they need to stay here, and to protect them from those who want to scam them out of their savings.
We all know this is going to take a fight. I’m hopeful that, with the bipartisan Senior Security Act set to pass the House of Representatives today and with companion legislation soon to be introduced in the Senate, 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.