Consumer fraud is soaring. Reported losses to fraud skyrocketed to $5.8 billion in 2021, an increase of more than 70 percent from a year earlier, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a consumer protection agency.
While education empowers older Americans to protect themselves, more is needed to eliminate this large-scale problem. That’s why AARP advocates for laws and regulations at the state and federal level to protect adults age 50 and older. AARP has supported bipartisan legislation to strengthen consumer protections against scams, including bills that combat caller-ID spoofing and illegal robocalls.
- AARP successfully advocated for passage the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act, which Congress approved in March. The act will bolster the FTC’s prevention efforts and response to violations impacting older Americans.
In particular, the act will establish a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group composed of high-level federal government officials and private-sector representatives from the retail, gift card, telecommunications, wire transfer and financial services sectors.
Additionally, the act will create an office within the FTC to fight fraud aimed at older adults. The office will highlight how to report scams to the FTC and make reported cases immediately available to the FBI, state attorneys general and other law enforcement agencies.
- AARP recently endorsed another bipartisan measure, the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act. The bill would create a grant program implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission to work with state securities regulators to protect senior investors. The bill would provide $10 million in annual grants to state regulators to support the investigation and prosecution of senior financial fraud cases, invest in technology and training, and conduct outreach to older Americans to heighten awareness of scams.
AARP is encouraged by the investments proposed in the legislation and its support in the House and Senate.
AARP has been successful in winning approval for stricter consumer protections at the state level, including in Nebraska, where the AARP state office advocated for the passage of a critical anti-spoofing measure that imposes fines on bad actors who manipulate caller ID to disguise the origin of their calls.
- AARP also is fighting to strengthen consumer protections in the gift card industry, since criminals increasingly direct victims to provide them with funds from gift cards or reload cards. Reported fraud losses involving these cards reached $233 million in 2021, the FTC says.
- AARP, through its award-winning BankSafe Initiative, offers free online training to employees in banks and credit unions to help them identify and stop suspected fraud before any money leaves a customer’s account.
- The initiative has expanded to the retail sector to encourage frontline employees in stores to intervene when a customer appears to be caught up in a scam and trying to buy gift cards at the direction of a criminal.