Protecting The Elderly From Abuse, Neglect And Fraud: A Legislation Round-Up

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

September 30, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

In July, we wrote about how millions of elderly Americans become the victims of some kind of financial fraud or internet scam each year. And those numbers are not inclusive of the kind of abuse and neglect senior citizens experience, which can also often be connected to some kind of financial motive. What makes matters a little more complicated when it comes to elder fraud and abuse is that seniors are generally viewed as being less inclined to report it, says the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They may not know how, may be too ashamed to, or may even be concerned that their families and relatives would lose confidence in their abilities.

Senior citizens lost $1 billion to fraud in 2020 alone. Elder abuse is an issue that affects at least 10% of older Americans annually, the FBI says, per an NBC article. In 2020, the elderly experienced all manner of frauds and scams, with the number of extortion victims topping the list, according to a report published earlier this year by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Americans over the age of 60 reported over 21,000 incidents of extortion in 2020 with losses amounting to over $18 million, the IC3 report added. It’s only apt, then, that policymakers consider bringing in new legislation to further protect the elderly from being scammed, robbed, abused, or neglected. In this piece, we take a look at seven bills that seek to address this public issue.

All bill numbers are per the 117th session of Congress (2021–2022).

H.R. 2922 — Elder Abuse Protection Act of 2021

The bill in brief: It gives statutory authority to the Elder Justice Initiative, which coordinates activities of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial fraud. It requires the DOJ’s Elder Justice Coordinator to serve as the head of the initiative. The bill also requires the initiative to establish a national elder fraud telephone hotline, promote civil legal aid to victims of elder fraud and elder abuse, and make resources available online in English and Spanish.

It was introduced in the House on April 30 and passed/agreed to with amendments in the House on June 23. The bill has 12 co-sponsors so far. For the related Senate bill, click here.

The long title of this act is “to amend the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act to authorize the Elder Justice Initiative, to require that online resources of such initiative are made available in Spanish, and for other purposes.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

H.R. 4969 — Elder Justice Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2021

The bill in brief: It aims to reauthorize funding for programs to prevent, investigate, and prosecute elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and for other purposes.

It was introduced on Aug. 6. The bill has two co-sponsors so far. For the related Senate bill, click here.

The long title of this act is the same as its brief.

You can find the full text of the act here.

H.R. 1565 — Senior Security Act of 2021

The bill in brief: This bill establishes the Senior Investor Taskforce within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The taskforce must report on topics relating to investors over the age of 65, including industry trends and serious issues impacting such investors, and make recommendations for legislative or regulatory actions to address problems encountered by senior investors. It also says the Government Accountability Office must report on the financial exploitation of senior citizens.

It was introduced on March 3. The bill has six co-sponsors so far.

The long title of this act is “to create an interdivisional taskforce at the Securities and Exchange Commission for senior investors.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

S. 337 — Stop Senior Scams Act

The bill in brief: The bill seeks to establish a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group, which must create model educational materials to train employees of retailers, financial-services companies, and wire-transfer companies on how to identify and prevent scams that affect seniors.

It was introduced on Feb. 22. The bill has three co-sponsors so far. For the related House bill, click here.

The long title of this act is “a bill to establish a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Council.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

H.R. 982 — Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2021

The bill in brief: This bill directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish an office within the Bureau of Consumer Protection to advise the FTC on preventing fraud targeting seniors and to assist the FTC in monitoring the market for mail, television, internet, telemarketing, and recorded message telephone call (robocall) fraud targeting seniors.

The bill goes on to say that the office must:

  • Disseminate to seniors and their families and caregivers information about the most common fraud schemes, including methods of reporting complaints either to the FTC’s national toll-free telephone number or to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, where complaints become immediately available to the FBI, state attorneys general, and other appropriate law enforcement agencies
  • Provide, in response to a specific request about a particular entity or individual, publicly available information regarding the FTC’s enforcement action
  • Maintain a website as a resource for information on fraud targeting seniors

It was introduced on Feb. 11. The bill has two co-sponsors so far. For the related Senate bill, click here.

The long title of this act is “to establish an office within the Federal Trade Commission to prevent fraud targeting seniors, and for other purposes.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

H.R. 4401 — Protecting Seniors from Health Care Fraud Act of 2021

The bill in brief: It seeks to direct the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to report annually to Congress and the public on healthcare fraud that targets seniors.

Specifically, the bill asks that the report include:

  • The 10 most prevalent health care fraud schemes targeted at seniors
  • Steps being taken to combat such schemes
  • Policy suggestions to improve protections for seniors.

Additionally, the bill says the report may omit information or details that would compromise an ongoing investigation or would serve criminals rather than seniors. The report must be posted on certain agency websites and disseminated to Medicare beneficiaries, as specified.

It was introduced on July 7 and doesn’t have any co-sponsors yet.

The long title of this act is “to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to distribute additional information to Medicare beneficiaries to prevent health care fraud, and for other purposes.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

H.R. 446 — Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act

The bill in brief: It requires the FTC to report on, and increase awareness regarding, scams targeting older adults. It is similar to H.R. 982: Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2021.

Per the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act, specifically, the commission must:

  • Report on the number and type of scams that target older adults and provide policy recommendations to prevent such scams;
  • Revise the commission’s web portal with current information about such scams, including contact information for law enforcement and adult protective services agencies; and
  • Coordinate with media outlets and law enforcement to disseminate such information.

It was introduced on Jan. 25. The bill has 10 co-sponsors so far. For the related Senate bill, click here.

The long title of this act is “to require the Federal Trade Commission to submit a report to Congress on scams targeting seniors, and for other purposes.”

You can find the full text of the act here.

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We’re crime fighters and technologists, who focus on public safety, workplace safety, customer safety, child protection, and human trafficking.

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Biometrica Systems, Inc.

Biometrica Systems, Inc.

We’re crime fighters and technologists, who focus on public safety, workplace safety, customer safety, child protection, and human trafficking.

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