tv Hearing on Fraud Against Seniors CSPAN October 23, 2015 9:52pm-10:45pm EDT
by the president. it was one of those things where things worked as intended. see there are no further members wishing to ask questions i wanted to thank our witnesses were being here today. this will conclude our first panel and we will take a two minute recess to set up for the second panel. >> i welcome everybody back and thank you for your patience and for being here today. we'll move into into the second panel for today's hearing. we'll follow the same format as the first panel. each witness will be given five minutes for an opening statement about by a round of questions from members. for a second panel second panel
we welcome the following witnesses, professors charles, the undergraduate program director for computer science at michigan technical university. ms. stanger, senior editor for consumer reports. we appreciate both of you being here this morning. will begin with you prof. wallace, you are recognized for five minutes for an opening statement. >> thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at this meeting. the students in my discrete math course to get the day off, thank you. my name is charles wallace, times associate professor, michigan tech is a research focus university located in the upper peninsula of michigan. we have an emphasis on technology, engineering, engineering, and other degree programs. for the past four years, a ranking digital barriers at michigan tech has organized an
ongoing outreach program in conjunction with the local public library. called on mine at the library. it trains elderly residents of our rural community in digital literacy skills and it opens our students to the digital we have identified the current things. that they most germane of the current is anxiety versus exploration. lacking next appropriate grounding in this new technology are senior patients alternate between naïve trust and paralyzing suspicion. neither of of which leads to comfortable, productive use. our program addresses this program by writing a safe space for learning among peers, interaction with with mentors who model appropriate use, and developing a healthy balance between caution and exploration.
residents over age 65 constitute 15% of the population of our rural area. because of the larger than average number of elders without family support, many are below the poverty line. there is a strong me to help a strong need to help with digital literacy in this community. the experience of using a community device as well causes this. without a basis of understanding how malware and other threats work they have no model of how to minimize the threat level. anything can be a threat, so many use fear from learning the computer altogether. there are lessons to explore, for newcomers to offer product or service, this is this is a vital form of learning, exploration. to complicate matters further, in practice it is often far from clear whether a user is a victim of true criminals or aggressive businesses pushing a product. for example, mitch, a 60-year-old recreational
computer user runs a small service based local busines he paid a company hundreds of dollars because they convinced him that his business needs to be on prioritized search list for google and bing. however, mitch did not know what the service was or how it helped his business. how he could access his accounts of the servicer where he would be able to see the effects of the service. after several months of being in the libra help program he described the situation and they were able to tell him what the service does and what you pay for. his business doesn't need a searchable on search engines does not help them. in this case he was not a victim of fraud or theft, strictly speaking, but paid a legitimate business to help them without understanding
the services he paper. it is paper. it is clear that basic literacy and secure online behavior is an essential weapon for fighting fraud against the elderly. we believe that online that it serves is effective and reputable learning model, a safe place for learning, asking potentially embarrassing questions, and gaining strength francine peers in the same position. personal contact with mentors who can model appropriate behavior, development of healthy online behavior, finding a balance that keeps seniors safe without stifling their creativity and productive energy. breaking digital barrier members are developing a social technote logical approach to help learners with strategies for navigating the internet. this approach involves small interactive group learning activities, along with software tools to help them with navigation. over the next two years, breaking digital barriers will help similar learning programs
around michigan. more information can be found at our breaking digital berries breaking digital berries web see at an tu.edu/edd. thank you. >> the chair thinks the gentleman. >> my turn? >> chairman, ranking members, committee members, thank members, thank you for inviting me to speak think. i'm seeing the editor at consumer reports, i also represent today epic c-arm consumers union. you may wonder why consumer reports, which, which is better known as rating products in cars would highlight elder scams? security is that it score of security issue. people have a
right to expect their hard and savings are protected. when i was asked to testify, is a bit and a wrist. then i thought about edna, and, and ed you six-year-old great-grandmother from harvey, north dakota. she had the courage to testify in federal court earlier this year against a man from jamaica who is part of a vast conspiracy to defraud dozens of people. mainly seniors in a sweepstakes scam. edna. edna herself lost nearly $300,000 in life savings. most seniors would not be willing to talk, but and i was angry and she wanted her money back, so in spite of being nervous and scared she spoke out. sadly, from money may never be returned but he helped convict a really bad guy. and i was one of eight victims who spoke for me on a recent article on elder scams that you mentioned that appeared in consumer reports. i'm truly grateful for the willingness to have the publish. they said they did it so others may be spared. this is not typical of other scam victims. most scam unreported, the
victims are bested and shamed, among other things they're scared that if they tell, people think they are unsophisticated, stupid, or losing cognitive abilities. honestly, these scams can victimize anyone. criminals catch people off guard. they sound very convincing. they required them to make quick decisions and they insist on secrecy. this is their is their job. they do it all day long. their tactics could work at anyone and writes situation. >> ..
the service identifies unusual activity in a seniors account and then sends a list to senior or a trusted adult child or other third party. the senior doesn't have to allow direct access to the account. the senior can retain control. of course in similar courts recommend signing up for the federal do not call registry and the direct marketing association's mail preference service to reduce unwanted calls and mail. we have often recommended call blocking machines that block robo-calls which can be the basis of phone scams. notably we found a free robo-calls i -- robo-call blocking services and it's very effective but it's not available on traditional landlines which is what seniors often have. there's no reason why tools to block unwanted calls can the made available on landlines but the three top landline providers
don't offer them. the consumers union has an and robo-calls campaign that has gathered more than half a million physician signatures. we are soon going to deliver to the phone company to demand for a more effective tools be offered. these developments can help but they must be supplemented by communication and education. elder elder financial exploitation needs to be part of the national conversation. we published articles about it. other publications have but i would love to see a movie on this. it's a plot with the story heroic investigators and victims, piles of money and even some exotic locations. thankfully some seniors are willing to seek out. there's a stop seniors acting program. they write skits dramatizing scams and they perform them in
senior centers and other locations. some of the actors themselves are scam victims so they can speak from experience. after performances audience members often come up to them to report that they too have been scammed. these people might -- might not be able to tell their own families but they will tell their peers. there is no creative initiative or will to make a dent in this worth terrific crime. seniors themselves need to feel safe in talking about with law enforcement adult protection services peers and their families. as one of the actors in the stop senior scam program said don't keep a secret. you are not the only one. thank you. >> thank you and i think both of you for your testimony. we will move to the question portion of the hearing. we will begin a question on this site and i will yield to mr. harper for five minutes for questions. >> thank you mr. chairman thank you to you both for being here. i know today they're probably watching as we speak so we wish
them well. just in case there are there are. ms. stanger if you have spent a significant amount of time putting together a scams piece for consumer report. what was the most shocking thing you learned while you were researching the article? >> i think the most shocking thing is it is really so rampant. every person i turn to envy adult community and adult protective services when i'll call them and say i was doing this they would say thank you, we need to have this publicized. please comment everywhere. in my own family with my husband and i together we can think of four instances of various elder abuse situations. it is everywhere and it's really underreported. it's very hard to get eight people to talk with me. it took a lot of effort and i'm very grateful for their bravery because people are afraid to talk. the conversation i think needs to change to not being afraid.
>> it's so humiliating for them to have to share that and they would rather just suffer in silence. it takes a lot of courage to do that. i have been dealing in the last year with a gentleman, a senior who fell for one of the scams. send us some money and you will get a lot of money back. he was thinking this will help pay for my adult kids school and take care of my wife and we said don't do it. he did it anyway and he kept doing it to the tune probably most of his savings even though his wife you now, i don't know yet that he has grasped what he has done. the very difficult thing because when you have people that can't really control that and fall prey to that and they don't have someone overseeing it's very difficult. i know in your article you talk about some of the great senior
initiatives to educate their peers about the progress. have you seen any similar initiative to educate caregivers and what experience with the caregivers and seniors did you have in your research? >> i think cfpb program but they talked about where they have outlets, several booklets to educate caregivers and people who have fiduciary duties over seniors accounts. those are very helpful. those are pretty new and as i understand they are being promulgated in different states. so i think that's very helpful but yes i think caregivers need more education. that's something we can start to do in our publication. clearly, i spoke with one woman. she knew exactly the same thing. her father and mother were involved in the scam and she just did not know how to stop them. and so widespread education can be very useful.
sometimes -- i found a victim services specialist from the fbi in los angeles who people come to her when they have relatives who are repeat scam victims and these are often -- because they have developed an emotional relationship with a scammer and they really trust them. this woman from the at ti, she would tell people call me. if somebody calls you come you call me and i will walk you through this. i will keep you from getting scammed again. sometimes it requires hand-in-hand cooperation. >> and some of these you will see that they will get into it. they will send them a few thousand dollars. we have these additional costs that you will have to cover and all of a sudden they think while i'm in this far and they keep going and going and it's just heartbreaking. thank you for your work on that
and really do appreciate it. professor wallace in your testimony talk about how in your experience you've seen a lot of anxiety about using technology and very naïve trust about technology that poses risks for consumers and things are constantly moving as we see. my adult daughter, i guess i know we are in the record here has quit using facebook once my wife or mom started getting -- so you see. >> facebook is for old people. >> there you go so we are seeing all this transition there. what are the most effective methods you have found to teach seniors that they can be safe on line without thinking they are going to break their device or trusting every single pop up becomes there on the screen? >> is a tough problem. one thing that helps a lot is being among peers and realizing they are not alone.
and that other newcomers and technology are struggling with the same types of issues. one exercise we have done in the past i think it's been affected. it's considering what they do with physical postal mail that they get that looks suspicious. it has a certain smell to it and you get something in the mail and you look at it and say no i'm not going to -- i'm going to throw this in the waist down. >> my time is long over. i'm going to yield back and hope i can finish later. >> the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair recognizes the gentlelady from illinois for five minutes for questions. >> first ms. stanger we talked about shame and we talked about it again on this panel. i'm wondering if there are tools other than the individual having a report that couldn't be more
effective. in your article you mentioned several pieces in which a bank allowed older people to repeatedly withdraw large amounts of money and presumably when that was out of, presumably when it was out of order for that particular person and actually did nothing to investigate whether fraud was involved and perhaps didn't even notify anybody until the point at which the person had come to get a loan from the bank. what should be or is being done to encourage banks to take a more active role in intervening in the situations? >> i don't have that much information on this except there are some that are making it part of their companywide effort such as wells fargo understand where they are educating everybody to be a reporter. you know, not every state has
the same lot in terms of who is supposed to be -- has to report when they think elder fraud is happening. it varies from state to state. but there are companies themselves that are taking it upon themselves to do this and i can't speak in great detail about what the bank associations are doing but there are some banks that are saying we think there's something going on and you need to speak up right away and not wait until time goes by. certainly more education at all levels. the teller is often the person that sees a senior taking out the money and it's a fine line between letting them have control over their money and putting up a red flag. we also think it's a good idea for family members to have a relationship with a local bank. often seniors go to the local branches. i don't know how much they are doing their banking on line as
opposed to other population groups but often seniors go to the group -- the bank. so it's a good idea for the families to have a relationship with the bank so this kind of conversation can happen. >> i have a feeling the woman who was trying to help her son will reportedly needing help even if the teller worked to say you are taking out of lot of money but she might have scared scared -- shared the story. my grandson is in trouble and i'm trying to help him. it just seems like those kinds of conversations could help. i don't know what enforces that. one question for you and for professor wallace. i think some people think that these might be small scam operations that you pointed out
actually some of these are fairly big-time operators. i wonder if he could talk about that a little bit? >> we looked at something called the jamaican lottery scam which you may have heard about. it operates not just at jamaica but other foreign countries as well. israel and canada i think so this is where people are called, elderly people are called and they have a list. the scammers have a list that they have collected. it may be because somebody has responded to something in the mail and then they send something back, maybe their name or phone number or some money. these lists are created and the scammers get ahold of these lists and they know this is somebody who has already responded wants to amy lang and so then they will call the seniors. they are very, very organized. they know how to get seniors emotions.
they know how to drop a senior and an these things go on for months and months. people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. so they are very organized. >> mr. wallace you mentioned the breaking digital various program at michigan tech that could serve as a national model. what are some of the common themes that you have observed in seniors that have taken the course and do believe the trends will be reflective of seniors nationwide? >> certainly the anxiety and the fear of adopting technology and we need to balance this concern about fraud which is absolutely legitimate with something that encourages exploring in a safeway so finding that allen's is really a key issue for us.
we still struggle with it but we are looking for metaphors and ways in which we can relate it to their life off-line. when you are sensible and safe in your regular life can you transfer those skills over to the digital world? so that's one of the things. >> although i do want to say that the pew research center says 35% of americans age 65 and older currently use social media , up 27% from 2014 so more and more people are and in 2014 pew reported 59% of this age group using the internet for 71% going on daily so we are seeing more and more seniors. >> especially in our area. it's vital for them to go on
line because so many of their family members live far away now it's a tremendous asset for them and really a lifeline in a way so it's important for them to adopt this technology. >> thank you. >> the gentlelady's time has expired. the gentlelady yields back. the chairman recognizes mr. mulholland for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you both for being here. professor wallace what gave you the idea to even start this up? just taking a look at you i'm very impressed, not by your looks. [laughter] i'm very impressed by the idea that you would take this initiative. was this discovered by you or your students? how did you even think of this? >> one driving force is the type of material that i teach two students involves understanding
users of the technology that they are developing. our students are going to be developing the software that we all are going to be using. i want them to understand what regular people are like and certainly people who don't have that kind of understanding of the technology. very often what happens is software people will develop software for other software people so we need to have a broader view of what the user base is going to be like. by the way one thing i want to insert here, i got a message from one of my colleagues in breaking digital barriers. this is not exclusively a senior problem. digital literacy is something that is a concern for people across age groups. we work with people who are younger than i am so by definition they are not old.
[laughter] who struggle with the technology so in general this is a larger issue that impacts seniors greatly. also i think we need to keep in mind it's a broader issue. thank you for seeing the need and i'm assuming that once you start down this path it became a passion because the amount of work you have put into this wasn't just a class project. did you get personally involved in it to some degree surprisingly? >> i think it's fair to say that everyone who has purchased the patent in it, students, faculty take a personal interest in it and it's the kind of work that is so much fun that it doesn't feel like work. apart from a the learning that goes on in our sessions is also a social session and it's a way
for generations to meet and work together. it's just a lot of fun. >> will thank you. i hope i say this right. stanger, did i say that right? the same question applies to you the way i understand this it wasn't exactly your background. you just started going down the path in one door opened after another. was there something about lead you down this road? >> number one it is my passion but i'm a personal finance editor senior editor and personal finance at "consumer reports." this is the second piece where britain on this. two years ago we would more about scams or i say fraud committed by family members and people that seniors now. this is more about scams by strangers but eyes feel very strongly about it. "consumer reports" and consumers
union retirement security is very important to us. i write on retirement issues so i'm very interested but you can't help when you speak to the senior sebring one or two of them you have to get drawn in. it's heartbreaking and there is so much that we can do a thing. >> if you could take maybe two things that you would like to see, maybe there has to be require personal interaction are there has to be something signed before you could do it. what would you give in this hearing, what would you give us for suggestions to say hey work on this? >> believe it or not i think it's the only one i know of in the country and i don't think it's particularly difficult to find a little theater group and all communities in the country
where they could be communicating to each other. this is senior to senior. it gets not a house. isolation is a major part of us are getting people out of and into the community to talk to each other is very important and there is that communication. i just think dealing at a grassroots level can really make a difference and i think that was reflected in many other statements. what else? i think just supporting the work i think the ftc is doing wonderful work. it is a useful and grassroots effort and i think the cfpb's collection, specifically collection of anecdotes from people is very helpful. obviously they don't always know what the age is. in my right to say that? they don't collect the ages of all the people who report that
certainly the people are reporting problems with reverse mortgages they know they are speaking to someone or of -- older. the more information we can get it helps in the collection of data. we need more data. >> thank you for the work of both of you do. mr. chairman i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the gentlelady from indiana miss burks for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. vester wallace prior to coming to congress i was a senior administrator and i was there during the recession from 07 until 11 and i must say the community colleges have exploded in enrollment during that time. not because so many people have gotten laid off of their jobs of all ages but particularly those who were 40 or 50 years old who got laid off their jobs need to come back to college because they had no digital literacy skills and they could even apply for jobs on line because of that
digital literacy or illiteracy. so i'm very pleased that you are doing this. how would you encourage other schools? how much are you talking about this? obviously it's a nice platform for you to publicize but how are other communities -- are they taking up your baton and doing what you are doing or are you a unique program in the country? i'm not familiar with the various programs and then secondly what are some of the strategies you were using that are actually teaching the senior's? >> we are certainly not unique. there are several other efforts in this regard. i want to include senior nat, cyberseniors, generations on line. there are a lot of groups that are doing similar kind of work in this space. >> do they actually go into the
communities like you are doing or are they more on line educational tools? >> there are afraid if approaches. some of them are working one-on-one so i don't want to claim that we are the only ones doing this kind of work. obviously this is a tremendous platform to raise awareness. i was also invited to a white house conference on age in over the summer which i was given a platform to speak out about this and certainly within the state of michigan there has been a tremendous amount of interest. we are working with other universities. i feel like it's a very easy model to implement and what we are the business of doing right now is codifying what we do at michigan tech so that we can
distribute and give them a leg up on the whole process. >> what are some strategies that you have found that it works best when you are teaching? >> as i said in my statement, having tutors modeled their own behavior and speak out loud about it is an important piece of it so having experience computer users, looking at what's on the screens. in this case i would be thinking about this and i would be worrying about this and i would want to tryout this and working out what's going on in their minds and sing it out loud is an important piece of that to articulate that this isn't process just like working with any other kind of aspect of life. you have to weigh the pros and cons and then think about it. for instance looking at junk mail that you get in the mailbox
that brings it back to familiar territory which i think is useful. this is not something entirely new. it's different and you have to learn how to use it but it's not entirely -- i just want to say ms. stanger and i are both in solidarity on this issue, that education in this regard is an extremely effective and low-cost way of addressing this problem of fraud on line. a little bit of education a thing can go a long way to stem the problems that we see that take immense amount of time and effort to cheerleader. >> i know we focus a lot on education of the children getting on line but we don't spend nearly enough time educating seniors. ms. stanger and would like you to know that every time i go home and visit my parents
"consumer reports" is front and center. i do want to ask you are there enough and your research available and accessible tools for seniors to report having found in your research are there enough tools and do they know what they are? >> i think the last part of your question is the important thing. we have several articles where people can report. obviously aarp is involved. there's something called a financial fraud enforcement task force for stock fraud.gov we can report on the senate side they have the special commission on aging hotlines and that's a good place for you can call up and they will tell you where to go for help. i think a lot of people the first person they might go to is the police, local law enforcement and my understanding is there could be more training
with local law enforcement. i spoke with local prosecutors who said when somebody comes to them and says i've been scammed and the cop says thinking to himself that was kind of stupid why did you do that and they have to be trained. understand the justice department is getting involved in training. local police to spot elder abuse not just financial elder abuse but also physical abuse and emotional abuse and so forth. so at the very local level where people are doing the reporting i think there has to be better training. in some communities, some large communities there are task forces. seattle and i think in sand -- san diego for different groups have come together and created a public space and that can help. in san diego as a fellow named paul greenwood who is an
assistant district attorney i think and he is very well-known. one of the people that we profiled is involved in the scam. he got -- he sent money and a scam and then he thought that her of it. he told a friend and the friend went to paul green's office. paul green was working with wells fargo and they stopped the payment that he was making to the scammer so it can work. not always but it can work sometimes if people reported and they know where to go. on the local level i'm not sure that always happens. >> thanks for your efforts in protecting our seniors both of you. appreciate it. i yield back. >> the chair thanks the gentlelady in the chair recognizes the gentleman from kentucky for five minutes. >> thank you for being here and i've prepared a lot of the same kinds of questions was very similar.
ms. stanger in your article is there a common thread? you set isolation cell on the phone rings they answer the phone and engage in conversation but is there something common that you are looking r are several things that are common? >> one common thread is that, well many of them they were acting because i wanted to provide for somebody, for children or grandchildren. they thought this would be great. i'm getting these winnings. father ortiz who we profiled, he was hoping to get the money and use it to fund a school. seniors know this. they really know how to push those emotional buttons and that is what's sad. ..
older brother that was being scammed and he was someone that you couldn't get to stop. and have you seen that with some of the other family members saying don't do this? >> yeah, i think that that's part of it. >> that is right. >> unfortunately some of the worst cases develop a relationship with a scammer and relatives are saying that you cannot do this and no, and they trust the scammer more than they trust the adult child. i mean, i'm at a loss to know what to say except that if a
senior can be told that they can be shown some of the things that do not make sense, maybe they will start to realize that oh, this web address doesn't seem right. and some of these things the seniors may not think about that somebody younger knows about it. you know, it says that you have a problem with your computer, click here. a lot of younger people are like oh, no, i am not going there. but somebody not as familiar is not going to know. the victim is specialist said that she actually wrote down something like a script so that when somebody called they would know what to say.
it required real preparation and it's almost an addiction for some. >> i know that some questions were asked. there are several questions. like what trends do you see or are some sessions more popular than others. >> certainly a trending to mobile devices as we have a greater variety coming in, which makes it harder for us to keep track of this and so it takes a little while to learn. and that is the one thing that we try to get it across to the learners is that we sort of have ways approaching something new. so it could be a new website or
service of some kind and so we have ways of looking at it, checking it out, making sure it is legitimate. so there is certainly a greater diversity in both in terms of physical devices and in terms of the services that people are using them so that means that we have to teach them a more agile way of approaching the technology. we cannot just keep using the gmail in its current form because a lot is going to change so we need to teach them these deeper skills and that includes what kind of approach is to use to ensure that this is something
legitimate. we tried to transfer them over to the digital world. >> thank you, and i appreciate you guys doing this. >> the chair thanks the gentleman and we recognize him for five minutes for questions and it looks like we've got enough time to conclude this and adjourned the subcommittee before we go to record the votes. so i would like to know what kind of response we have had with consumer reports. >> people in the justice community, people that deal with this, moyers and people, they
are happy that it's out there because they believe that it gets the word out. people call this group to congratulate them and maybe they will work together, that would be great. i do not know what the readers are saying but we hope that having it on the cover of a national magazine will get people to think more about it in their own lives. >> it certainly drives the interest factor. he may have noticed that you have arrived in the digital freestone which is ironic because we are the principal committee in the united states house of representatives and they provide us with a pad of paper and a pencil.
in the health care space we have surveillance where it could be an early tipoff. is there anyway to use that kind of surveillance in your world where there is an increased level of scamming activity. they used to call them pigeon drops where they would come down and take advantage of people. is there any way that you have of getting tipped off that there is an uptick in this type of activity? >> i do not know of any idea in that regard.
if it doesn't exist right now i think it is a great idea. >> i did not know about the little scratch off my cards and i didn't even know you could do that. and so i don't know if there's any way of watching that kind of activity. >> i understand the that we don't have that particular capability anymore and so i think they are trying to eliminate. but the scammers come up with new things. the iphone cards. >> apple pay. >> something is being used. they figure it out. >> they are much more fast file in the u.s. congress.
>> there is also the isolation factor that is used in almost monetized to take advantage of people. it's hard to know how to overcome that except that making families aware that that is a risk factor in the population is ironic. >> the isolation is something that really motivates the computer use and in our case a lot of people do not have relatives nearby. so great way to communicate is through social media and so on. but a lot of people don't have feedback about it, but hopefully we will provide service. we are working with mentors who have a help.
>> a general word to families to be on the lookout we do have a family member who is perhaps at risk for being targeted by this type of activity. i just have to ask you one last question but facebook, you reference it was for old people. what is up with that? >> i am just echoing the sentiment of my children did say that young people don't use it anymore. >> they will tell me. >> it is in development. all right. and i'm going to yield back the balance of my time and seeing that there are no further members wishing to ask questions, i want to thank the witnesses for being here today. before we conclude i like to submit the following documents for the record. a story in the upcoming issue of consumer reports magazine and i
remind members that they have 10 business days to submit additional questions for the record within this with receipt of sub questions. >> very good. thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> every weekend c-span features politics from a nonfiction books in american history. at 9:00 p.m. eastern it is the jefferson jackson dinner live from des moines, iowa. speakers include senator bernie sanders, martin o'malley and hillary clinton. carly fiorina will hold a town
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