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AARP Fighting For You Against Fraud

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Consumer fraud is soaring. Reported losses to fraud skyrocketed to $6.1 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. Because fraud is underreported, we know that actual losses are much higher.

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 levels 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 of the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act, which Congress approved in March. The act will bolster the FTC’s prevention efforts and response to violations affecting older Americans.

In particular, the act has established 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. AARP has a few seats at the table.

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 has 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 older 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 also has advocated for a federal bill that would protect veterans from benefits fraud. Cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act would allow for criminal charges against unaccredited benefit representatives who charge unauthorized fees while ostensibly helping veterans file disability claims.  
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And AARP has been successful in winning approval for stricter consumer protections at the state level, including:

  • law in Iowa that increases criminal penalties in many cases of elder abuse and supports law enforcement in fighting these crimes. After passing unanimously in the Iowa House and Senate, the law went into effect July 1.
  • Passage of a Connecticut law requiring mandated elder abuse reporters to complete the elder abuse training program with the Department of Social Services (DSS), or another DSS-approved program, by June 30, 2023, or within 90 days after becoming a mandated elder abuse reporter.

More ways AARP is working for you:

  • AARP 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.
  • The AARP Fraud Watch Network is leading an effort to fundamentally change how our country responds to the crime of fraud. The team is reaching out to federal and state agencies, other nonprofits, the media and consumers to change the narrative on how we talk about fraud victims. The goal is to grow understanding that fraud is a punishable crime, that the perpetrators are largely transnational organized criminal enterprises funding such atrocities as human trafficking, and that it is not the fault of victims who experience scams by deception. We aim to convince federal and state law enforcement to do more to pursue these criminals. Learn more by watching a Tedx Talk by Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention programs and lead of the Fraud Watch Network.
  • 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 trying to buy gift cards at the direction of a criminal under false pretenses.
  • AARP’s Fraud Watch Network site includes news on fraud and scam-fighting tips to thwart criminals. There, you can sign up for biweekly “Watchdog Alerts” by email or text to stay on top of the latest schemes.
  • The VOA ReST (Resilience, Strength and Time) program, a collaboration between AARP and Volunteers of America (VOA), offers free online facilitated emotional support sessions for fraud victims.

More from the Fraud Watch Network

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