January 20, 2022

Van Hollen, Scott, Warnock, Lummis Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Seniors from Fraud

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced bipartisan legislation to help better protect seniors from fraud. According to a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging released last Congress, older Americans lose approximately $3 billion each year to financial scams and abuse. A separate survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that approximately seven million Americans have reported being victims of financial exploitation. 

The Senators’ legislation, the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act, creates a grant program, implemented by the Securities and Exchange Commission, that would work closely with state securities regulators to protect senior investors. The bill will provide $10 million in grants annually 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 and increase their awareness of scams. State regulators and law enforcement play an essential role in combating fraud and scams aimed at older Americans.

“Every day, Marylanders fall victim to con artists who target seniors. But there’s more we can do to protect them. That’s why I’m partnering with a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce this critical legislation to help combat fraudulent scams aimed at older Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this common-sense bill passed,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a heartbreaking uptick in fraud and scams against our nation's seniors. In 2020 alone, more than $1 billion wasstolen,” said Senator Scott. “As ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee, I'm proud to join my colleagues in fighting these heinous crimes and protecting older Americans. No senior should have to worry about financial fraud in their golden years.”

“All Georgians deserve to have their hard-earned money protected from fraud, especially our senior citizens, who are too often victim of financial scams and exploitation. I am proud of our new, bipartisan legislation to protect our most vulnerable communities and invest in their security,” said Senator Reverend Warnock. 

“State securities regulators, like our Wyoming Secretary of State, play an important role in ensuring robust capital markets. I am thrilled to work with Senators Chris Van Hollen, Tim Scott, and Raphael Warnock to introduce legislation that empowers state regulators with targeted grants to better combat senior investment fraud,” said Senator Lummis.

This legislation was previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and passed out of the Financial Services Committee by voice vote in November.

The Senators’ legislation is endorsed by a broad group of organizations, including: AARP, Americans for Financial Reform, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., Consumer Federation of America, CFA Institute, Financial Services Institute, Insured Retirement Institute, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, North American Securities Administrators Association, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. 

“On behalf of our 38 million members and all older Americans nationwide, we write to express support for the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act. AARP has been working with policymakers and regulators to combat financial fraud aimed at older Americans since its founding in 1958. Unfortunately, bad actors have continued to target seniors over the last 63 years. Scams aimed at seniors have not only managed to persist, but deceptive practices and risks have evolved. The Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act would provide older Americans with a new defense against financial exploitation and investment scams tailored to exploit them,” wrote AARP Senior Vice President Bill Sweeney in a letter of support for the legislation.

“State securities regulators have been a leader for decades in the effort to protect seniors and other vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. Swift, bipartisan approval of this important legislation would be a win for everyone, particularly older adults,” said Melanie Senter Lubin, NASAA President and Maryland Securities Commissioner.

“Our seniors deserve to be able to save for and enjoy their retirements in peace, and this legislation further equips state insurance regulators to protect our seniors from financial fraud and to raise awareness of this growing problem,” said Dean L. Cameron, President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). “The NAIC appreciates Senators Van Hollen, Scott, Warnock and Lummis’ leadership in introducing this bill and urges the Senate to follow their bipartisan lead in passing this important legislation.”  

“The Consumer Federation of America strongly supports The Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act, which would reauthorize and improve the Senior Investor Protection Grant program and rehouse the program within the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. We applaud Congress’s interest in fixing this important program and are excited about the tangible benefits it will have in protecting seniors against financial exploitation. State regulators help form the front line of investor protection for many elderly investors, and under this bill, the grant program will provide much-needed funding to investigate and prosecute cases of senior financial fraud, provide for technology and training for those tasked with shutting down senior scams, and will fund education and outreach to older Americans to increase their awareness of scams. For these reasons, CFA strongly supports this bill and urges its passage,” said Dylan Bruce, Financial Service Counsel of the Consumer Federation of America.

“The importance of protecting older Americans, who are uniquely vulnerable to financial fraud and exploitation, cannot be overstated. By introducing this legislation in the Senate, Congress has the opportunity to deliver on its commitment to protect senior Americans. For these reasons, CFA Institute supports the Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act and encourages Congress to pass this legislation,” said Paul Andrews, Managing Director for Research Standards and Advocacy, CFA Institute. 

Text of the Senators’ legislation is available here.