Bipartisan legislation aimed at cracking down on fraud targeting older adults would give the federal government additional resources to alert seniors of fraudulent schemes.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act, which has the goal of improving the Federal Trade Commission’s prevention and response efforts against elder fraud and scams through coordination with key industries, consumer advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies and consumers. 

The legislation is led in the House by Representatives by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Peter Welch (D-VT). Klobuchar and Collins have introduced this bill in three previous sessions, and it passed in the Senate and House in the last session.

Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, said the legislation is a “critical step” toward combating fraud targeting older adults by identifying scams and educating consumers. If the bill passes, the FTC would be required to distribute information to seniors, their families and their caregivers explaining how to recognize fraud schemes and how to contact law enforcement if an older adult is targeted.

“All Americans deserve safety and dignity in their senior years, but too often older Americans are the targets of deceptive scams,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “New schemes designed to defraud seniors appear almost daily and can have serious consequences, such as wiping out a person’s entire life savings.”

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, five percent of older adults are the targets of fraud schemes, but only 1 in 44 older adults reports it. According to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, actual losses and attempts at elder financial exploitation reported by financial institutions nationwide were $1.7 billion in 2017. Last March, the Department of Justice announced that its annual Elder Fraud Sweep resulted in charges involving more than 400 defendants in elder fraud schemes, with alleged losses totaling more than $1 billion. 

Collins said that raising awareness among older adults who are more likely to be targeted by scams is key.

“The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act would help enhance fraud monitoring, increase consumer education and strengthen the complaint tracking system to help prevent seniors from being robbed of their hard-earned savings through threatening and manipulative scams,” she said.

Buchanan said that criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic and “working overtime” to target seniors.

“Scams targeting the elderly threaten more than retirement accounts — they imperil the independence and trust of an already vulnerable community,” he said. 

In January, Klobuchar and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) reintroduced the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act to protect seniors from scams during the pandemic. That legislation directs the FTC to report to Congress on scams targeting seniors during the coronavirus pandemic and make recommendations on how to prevent future scams during emergencies.

Last March, Klobuchar and Moran, with support from 32 bipartisan colleagues, sent a letter urging FTC Chairman Joseph Simons to protect seniors from coronavirus-related scams, better inform consumers about scams, and assist victims in understanding their recourse options.