H. R. 4846
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
April 26, 2012
Ms. Baldwin introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To prevent mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors in the United States, to promote efforts to increase public awareness of the enormous impact that mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud have on seniors, to educate the public, seniors, their families, and their caregivers about how to identify and combat fraudulent activity, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Senior Financial Empowerment Act of
The Congress finds as follows:
The proportion of the population of the United States age 60 years or older is predicted to drastically increase in the next 30 years as more than 76,000,000 Baby Boomers approach retirement and old age.
It is estimated that between 500,000 and 5,000,000 seniors in the United States are abused, neglected, or exploited each year.
Abuse, neglect, and exploitation of seniors crosses racial, social class, gender, and geographic lines.
Each year millions of individuals in the United States are victims of financial exploitation, including mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud. Many of those who fall prey to such exploitation are seniors.
It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of fraud that targets seniors because cases are severely underreported and national statistics on senior fraud do not exist.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation notes that seniors in the United States are less likely to report fraud because they do not know to whom to report, they are ashamed to have been a victim of fraud, or they do not know that they have been a victim of fraud. In some cases, a senior who has been a victim of fraud may not report the crime because he or she is concerned that relatives may conclude that the senior no longer has the mental capacity to take care of his or her own financial affairs.
According to a 2009 report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the annual financial loss by victims of senior financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2,600,000,000.
Perpetrators of mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud frequently target seniors because seniors are often vulnerable and trusting people.
As victims of such fraudulent schemes, many seniors pay a financial cost, having been robbed of their hard-earned life savings, and frequently pay an emotional cost, losing their self-respect and dignity.
Perpetrators of fraud targeting seniors often operate outside the United States, reaching their victims through the mail, telephone lines, and the Internet.
The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act increased the power of the United States Postal Service to protect consumers against persons who use deceptive mailings, such as those featuring games of chance, sweepstakes, skill contests, and facsimile checks.
During fiscal year 2007, Postal Inspection Service analysts prepared more than 27,000 letters and informative postcards in response to mail fraud complaints. During that same year, postal inspectors investigated 2,909 mail fraud cases in the United States and arrested 1,236 mail fraud suspects, of whom 1,118 were convicted. Postal inspectors also reported 162 telemarketing fraud investigations, with 83 arrests and 61 convictions resulting from such investigations.
In 2000, the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging reported that consumers lose approximately $40,000,000,000 each year to telemarketing fraud, and estimated that approximately 10 percent of the Nation’s 14,000 telemarketing firms were fraudulent. Some researchers estimate that only one in 10,000 fraud victims reports the crime to the authorities.
A 2003 report by AARP found that, though the crime of telemarketing fraud is grossly underreported among seniors who have been victims of such fraud, seniors who are properly counseled by trained peer volunteers are less likely to fall victim to fraudulent practices.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that the threat of fraud to seniors is growing and changing. This is largely due to the fact that many younger Baby Boomers have considerable computer skills and criminals have responded by targeting seniors through online scams like phishing and email spamming, in addition to traditional telephone calls and mass mailings.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (hereinafter referred to in this paragraph as IC3) is a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that serves as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding cybercrime. The IC3 processed more than 219,553 complaints of Internet crime in 2007. From these submissions, the IC3 referred 90,008 complaints of Internet crime, representing a total dollar loss of $239,090,000, to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in the United States for further consideration.
Consumer awareness is the best protection from fraud.
Centralized service for consumer education on mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors
The Federal Trade Commission, after consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Postmaster General, the Chief Postal Inspector for the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, shall—
periodically disseminate to seniors, and families and caregivers of seniors, general information on mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors, including descriptions of the most common fraud schemes;
periodically disseminate to seniors, and families and caregivers of seniors, information on methods available to report fraud targeting seniors, such as—
referring complaints to law enforcement agencies, including the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State attorneys general; and
calling a national toll-free telephone number established by the Federal Trade Commission for reporting mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud;
in response to a specific request by a party to the Federal Trade Commission inquiring about any history of fraud committed by a particular entity or individual, provide to such party any publically available information on any record of law enforcement action for fraud against such entity or individual—
by the Federal Trade Commission; and
by any other agency that reports such actions to the Federal Trade Commission; and
maintain a Web site to serve as a resource for information for seniors, and families and caregivers of seniors, regarding mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors.
Procedures and commencement
The Federal Trade Commission shall establish and implement procedures to carry out the requirements of paragraph (1), including procedures—
with respect to the frequency and mode of dissemination of information under subparagraphs (A) and (B) of such paragraph; and
that provide for the implementation of the requirements of such paragraph not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Authorization of appropriations
There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $10,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
Grants to prevent mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud
Grant program authorized
Subject to the availability of funds authorized to be appropriated under this section, the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Postmaster General, the Chief Postal Inspector for the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, shall establish and administer a competitive grant program to award grants to eligible organizations to carry out mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud prevention education programs for seniors.
The Attorney General may award grants under this section to State Attorneys General, State and local law enforcement agencies and groups, senior centers, and other local nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to seniors, as determined by the Attorney General.
Authorization of appropriations
There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $20,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
Sense of the Congress related to National Senior Fraud Awareness Week
It is the sense of the Congress that—
there is a need to increase public awareness of the enormous impact that mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud have on senior citizens in the United States;
week should be designated as
National Senior Fraud Awareness
the people of the United States should observe National Senior Fraud Awareness Week with appropriate educational activities; and
the President is encouraged to issue a proclamation supporting increased public awareness of the impact of, and the need to prevent, fraud committed against seniors.