FTC Efforts to combat fraud affecting older Americans

In testimony before Congress today, the Federal Trade Commission described the current trends relating to fraud affecting older Americans, and how the FTC uses law enforcement and other tools at its disposal to combat these frauds.

Testifying on behalf of the Commission before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, said certain types of scams are more likely to affect older Americans, such as fraudulent prize promotion schemes. The Commission’s efforts to identify and stop illegal marketing affecting seniors has become increasingly vital as the population of older Americans is growing rapidly, the testimony states.

“To protect seniors, the Commission has implemented a multi-faceted approach that encompasses robust law enforcement, strategic policy initiatives, and vigorous consumer education and outreach,” the testimony states.

The Commission has identified several varieties of fraudulent and deceptive schemes that affect seniors, including: (1) sweepstakes, prize promotions and lotteries, (2) timeshare sales and re-sales, (3) health care products and services, (4) investments, business opportunities and work-from-home programs, (5) technical support services, and (6) charitable donations.

The Commission has filed 45 cases against 163 companies and 121 individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls, as well as numerous Do-Not-Call violations, many targeting older Americans, and it has brought 25 cases involving conduct that specifically targeted or disproportionately harmed older adults.

For example, the FTC has aggressively pursued the money transfer services commonly used in scams targeting older Americans. Just two weeks ago, Western Union agreed to historic settlements with the FTC and the Department of Justice. The FTC’s action alleged that despite knowing its service was used by scammers, including some who were using the so-called “grandparent” scam, Western Union failed to take reasonable steps to stop the frauds. As part of the FTC’s case, as well as a deferred prosecution agreement Western Union entered into with the Department of Justice, the company has agreed to pay $586 million to redress victims.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook (link is external), follow us on Twitter (link is external), read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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