Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Congressmember Claudia Tenney at a Utica Senior Center Monday to introduce a bill to fight elderly fraud. They say as many as 10,000 people in New York are scammed each year.
About $3.5 million is stolen from seniors in the Mohawk valley each year by scammers. And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand warns the scams come in ways to fool and frighten.
"The IRS is calling. You haven't paid your taxes. You made a mistake on your taxes. Nobody thinks they get their taxes perfect, so everybody's like oh did I? Yes, you did, and you owe $2,000. If you don't pay today were sending the FBI to your door, and you'll be arrested in front of your neighbors. That has worked,” said Gillibrand.
What's also has worked are phone calls pretending to be a grandchild in trouble, asking for bail money or money to fix a car. A further issue, says Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, is that the victims of the crimes don’t report them.
"But sometimes, as a senior, they may not because they're embarrassed, but for you, as a daughter or a caregiver, it's important for you to contact the law enforcement to let them know so we could put our handle on it," said Palmieri. "Because a lot of times what will happen is that, not only are they making the phone calls, but they could be right out in front scoping the area.”
If police agencies knew, they could work together on rooting at the scammers. That’s one of he things Gillibrand’s bill would do to help State Police and Federal Agencies’ cyber crimes units. Her measure would also create a hotline for reporting, require banks, senior centers or other agencies to report the crimes, and provide resources for education.
"That's what the bill does. It basically makes it easier to track these crimes, prevent these crimes, and provide resources so organizations that care about our seniors can be more effective in preventing these crimes from happening,” said Gillibrand.
- Medicare/health insurance scams
- Counterfeit prescription drugs
- Funeral and cemetery scams
- Fraudulent anti-aging products
- Telemarketing/phone scams
- Internet fraud
- Investment schemes
- Homeowner/reverse mortgage scams
- Sweepstakes and lottery scams
- The grandparent scam
Both senator Gillibrand and congress member Tenney have had relatives targeted by senior scams. And when asked, just about everyone on the audience of 75 or so raised their hands to say they received an email or phone call similar to one of the scams. Gillibrand is now looking for a republican cosponsor to hasten the bill through congress.