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House passes bill to protect seniors from scams

The House voted 371 to 48 Wednesday to pass a bill aimed at protecting senior citizens from increasingly frequent financial scams.

The Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act would create a program within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to dole out $10 million in funding annually to investigate and stop fraud in collaboration with state securities regulators.

“Older Americans have given so much to our great country. We should always have their backs and help protect them from predators that want to take advantage of them,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), the bill’s lead sponsor, said on the House floor Wednesday. “It is incumbent on us to protect them from scammers and abuse.”

Older Americans lose an estimated $3 billion a year to financial scams, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The risk of fraud increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with scammers offering vaccines, miracle cures and contract tracing services to often isolated elderly people by phone and on computers.

Older adults reported more than $100 million in losses from coronavirus-related frauds to the Federal Trade Commission in 2020.

The legislation advanced Wednesday builds on Gottheimer’s Senior Security Act, which was voted out of the House on a bipartisan basis last spring. 

The bill would create a task force at the SEC focused on protecting elderly investors. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) but has yet to receive a vote there.

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