With more than 60,000 Queens citizens losing $21 million to scams each year, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing the Senate to pass legislation that would add protections and safeguards for the elderly.
Gillibrand, who was joined at the Rego Park Senior Center on Thursday, August 12, by Congressmember Anthony Weiner, senior advocates and a number of senior citizens, hopes that the Senate will take up the bill to curb identity theft before the end of the year.
“Our Queens seniors spend a lifetime saving,” Gillibrand said. “We want to give them the tools they need to protect themselves.”
The Senior Financial Empowerment Act, which the House has already passed, would make the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a one-stop-shop for consumer education on mail, telemarketing and Internet fraud against seniors.
In addition, it would create a grant program to give states and local organizations the need to start education and fraud prevention services for seniors and declare a “National Senior Fraud Awareness Week” in May to increase awareness about the dangers.
Meanwhile, Gillibrand and Weiner also co-sponsored legislation known as the Senior Investor Protections Enforcement Act that would charge an additional $50,000 civil fine for each violation committed against a senior.
During the press conference, Maria Esther Romero spoke about her own experience of receiving a phone call from a scammer who asked her for all of her personal information including her social security number. Months later, Romero received statements saying that she owed nearly $90,000.
Although Romero eventually found help and avoided paying the fees, she said she decided to attend the event to bring awareness to the issue so other people didn’t have to go through the same ordeal she did.
“When they get a letter or email or solicitation on the phone their fundamental instincts to want to be helpful kick in, and unfortunately scammers take advantage of that every day,” Weiner said. “We in government have to do more and thanks to Senator Gillibrand we are.”