New bipartisan bill could help fight fraud - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

New bipartisan bill could help fight fraud

Madison (WKOW) -- from Tammy Baldwin:  Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and have introduced legislation to help prevent mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud targeting seniors.

  The Senior Financial Empowerment Act of 2008 (H.R. 6954) will promote efforts to educate the American public, seniors, their families, and caregivers about how to identify and combat fraudulent activity and ensure that criminals receive appropriate penalties.

  Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) are original cosponsors of the bill.

  "I am constantly receiving word from senior constituents who are being preyed on by fraudulent marketing schemes, offers, and promotions. This is a serious problem and our bipartisan legislation offers some constructive solutions to protect senior citizens from fraud," said Rep. Baldwin.

  Rep. Gohmert stated, "It is extremely important that senior citizens are protected from deceptive schemes. Many scams are carried out across state lines using the mail and telephone, making federal legislation necessary, and I'm thankful for all the hard work that has been contributed from both sides of the aisle. By empowering seniors to recognize and counter fraud attempts, and enforcing criminal penalties against violators, seniors will be far less vulnerable to these insidious attacks."

  It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of fraud targeting seniors due to severe under-reporting.

  In 2000, the last year for which data are available, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging reported that consumers lose approximately $40 billion annually to telemarketing fraud, and estimated that approximately 10 percent of the nation's 14,000 telemarketing firms were fraudulent.

  In 2007, postal inspectors investigated almost 3,000 mail fraud cases in the U.S. and arrested more than 1,200 mail fraud suspects.

  Further, the FBI has confirmed that criminals are modifying their targeting techniques to include online scams such as "phishing" and e-mail spamming.

  The Senior Financial Empowerment Act of 2008 will:

  • Ensure that sentencing penalties adequately reflect Congress's intent that the age of a crime victim is one criterion for determining whether the application of a sentencing enhancement is appropriate.
  • Establish a grant program to enable eligible organizations to carry out locally-focused mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud prevention and education programs for seniors.
  • Declare a "National Senior Fraud Awareness Week" in May (to coincide with Elder Abuse Awareness Month) to increase public awareness of the enormous impact that mail, telemarketing, and Internet fraud has on senior citizens in the U.S.
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