FTC tells Congress, stop the bad actors who prey on older Americans in their tracks

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In testimony Thursday, federal authorities reported New York ranks fourth in the country for senior citizen financial losses due to fraud.

Government watchdogs are asking for more teeth to enforce the law and Gillibrand wants stronger protections for the elderly.

You may remember Katie Smith, the Buffalo grandmother who came so close to losing $7,000 in a paving scam until an alert bank teller helped her out of it.

“She said don’t you give nobody this check until your son sees what they did,” Smith told News 4.

Fortunately, Katie’s son and the bank saved her from a big loss, but a growing number of seniors are not so lucky. A recent Congressional report estimates American seniors were scammed out of almost $3 billion last year, which prompted Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to re-introduce a bi-partisan measure, the Senior Financial Empowerment Act.

“Which would ensure that older adults and their caregivers have access to critical information regarding financial abuse, and the tools they need to get help if they have been a victim of fraud,” Gillibrand said.

But advocates for the elderly say protecting seniors can sometimes be nearly impossible.

“Many scammers are located outside of the country. The scams are constantly changing and evolving, Scammers favor transactions that cannot be traced, and often older adults do not realize they have been victimized until it is too late,” Paul Caccamise of Lifespan told News 4.

Gillibrand’s bill would call on the Federal Trade Commission to proactively inform seniors and their caregivers of potential scams and how to report them. The FTC would also set up a national hotline to report crimes against the elderly, but a local agency, the Center for Elder Law and Justice already has a direct line.

“Don’t feel scared or feel bad that this has happened to you, it can happen to anyone, even with the most education. Just come to us, we are not judgmental, we will help you get things figured out,” said Katelyn Gindele Center for Elder Law and Justice.

Katie Gindele told us the Center for Elder Law and Justice opens about 4,500 new cases a year, and the agency has a direct portal to the FTC for reporting elder abuse.

The number is (716) 853-3087, and Gindele emphasized reports can be anonymous.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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