The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

June 22, 2013

Scam elderly, face $150G fine

Casey bill increases penalty by 50%

SUNBURY — As criminals continue to target seniors for financial scams, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, has introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties for fraud against the elderly.

“Seniors are particularly vulnerable to financial scams so it’s vital that the federal government take steps to protect them,” Casey said introducing the The Senior Investor Protections Enhancement Act on June 18.

“This legislation will provide a strong deterrent to would-be scammers who would prey upon seniors,” he said. “Seniors represent a disproportionate amount of all fraud cases and the cost of these crimes has been trending upward. What’s needed are strong laws that make the consequences of these financial scams daunting.”

Americans over the age of 65 control an estimated $18 trillion in assets, a large portion of which is investable. Seniors have difficult and complicated decisions to make on how to stretch their savings throughout their retirement.

In making these financial decisions, seniors are often targeted with scams. Despite making up only 14 percent of the nation’s population, seniors — according to the Federal Trade Commission — accounted for 26 percent of reported fraud in 2012.

The cost of this financial fraud is significant. Casey referred to a 2011 study by MetLife that estimated the losses from financial elder abuse at more than $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase over a previous estimate MetLife did in 2008.

As the number of seniors grows significantly over the next few decades, the problem isn’t going to go away. In fact, it’s expected to get far worse. Today, there are 43 million Americans aged 65 and over — that’s one in seven Americans.

The Senior Investor Protections Enhancement Act of 2013 would amend several federal laws including the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Company Act of 1940, and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

Under the bill, the maximum civil penalties for violations that are primarily directed toward or committed against a senior (age 62 or older) would be increased. The bill would increase the maximum civil penalty for violations against seniors by $50,000. Current fines range from $5,000 to $100,000 for individuals and $100,000 to $550,000 for businesses.

The bill also directs the United States Sentencing Commission to review and amend federal sentencing guidelines and policy statements to ensure that guideline offense levels and enhancements appropriately punish criminal violations of the securities laws against seniors.

Casey said he would work toward bipartisan support of the bill in the upcoming months.

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