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tv   Christian Science Monitor with Thomas Donohue  CSPAN  October 24, 2015 3:12am-4:13am EDT

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certainly a matter of strong public policy. as well as the other members of the panel. i'll back my time. >> the gentleman yields back. we recognize another gentleman from new jersey. you have five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to ask mr. kaufman, a variety of consumers dance emerged during tax filing season. one of which is a form call from the person who falsely claims to represent the irs. i think that is what my. >> will the ranking member yield. >> and happen to my wife personally yesterday. >> i thought he was saying that when i walked in but i wasn't sure. thanks. so is this the scammers are very aggressive, they use use personal information about the victim that seem legitimate. it definitely has affected many constituents in my district. i'm not making this up.
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people, including seniors, one of whom was recently threatened with a home foreclosure home foreclosure if they do not pay specified amount. mr. cook, i would like my constituents to be prepared when they receive a phone call from an irs imposter. can you confirm that an irs agent would never call to demand immediate payment, asked for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or threaten arrest for not paying. >> yes i can absolutely confirm that. those are scams in a consumer should hang up and not provide any information. >> okay i appreciate that. i'm probably going to repeat what you just said so people understand that in my district. i'll wanted to ask also about reporting incidents. many consider financial exploitation to be a silent crime as victim are often too ashamed or embarrassed to report what is happen. additionally can be a challenge for seniors to serve as a criminal witness. bob forstmann talk about
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challenges of both identity and financial exploitation. can you explain the role of the consumer network has in combating exploitation. are there in each challenges the ftc spaces in respect to the database and what steps need to be taken in reporting of senior financial exploitation in general. >> the database is an important tool for law-enforcement agencies and we continue to develop and improve it. we have some of the works right now. it is a tool for for law-enforcement agencies throughout the country to have access to millions of consumer complaints and look for trends and specific areas they may be interested in. it has been an effective tool. >> can you give us an update on the consumer complaint database
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at the -- what type of complaints are you seen and how is this information useful to you in developing policy proposals question. >> what i will say that there is been in excess of 63000 complaints submitted by consumers age 62 and older since we began accepting complaints. what we do is we comb through them, we'll look at them to see how older consumers are faring in the marketplace. we know from looking at the complaints that there are many older consumers that are having difficulties with their mortgages and with that collection. those are are the two largest areas that older consumers are complaining about. which, by the way is not unlike their younger counterpart.
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there is often a misconception that older consumers are not engaged fully in the marketplace, that simply is not true. our consumer response section for complaints is focused on consumer products and services which is what the bureau focuses on. however, consumers also had narratives to their complaints and we have the opportunity to find instances of financial exploitation, stories related in the complaint as well. >> all right, thank, thank you very much. thank you mr. chairman. >> the gentleman yields back, the chair recognizes a gentleman for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you each of you for being here. we certainly have a lot of issues that need to be discussed. i know this will, as a surprise, we do some bipartisan work on occasion so i, along with
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represent castor introduce legislation in july to the race family caregiver act which would implement the bipartisan recommendation of the federal commission on long-term care that congress develop a national strategy to support family caregivers. similar scope to the national strategy developed to help not alzheimer's disease. it it would require the development maintenance a national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers. i think this is an underreported issue. unless you are living in the middle of it, people don't understand what is going on. my my mother's almost 92, we are going through issues with sitters in ourselves trying to take care of her and deal with those issues, it it is a difficult problem for a lot of families.
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and from personal experience for a number of years, we had phone calls, credit card offers, switch switch your credit card over here, do this, change your phone service to the cable and that if you don't like that you can change back. we finally were able to get to the point and hopefully this will be something to help families are doing this to tell that person to say i want to anything until you talk to so-and-so, my my son, my daughter, my trusted family member. those things will sometimes help. this is a question for for mr. kaufman to ms. kane as well. i'm interested in whether you're agencies are focused on the caregivers role of protecting the elderly from fraud. you mention some, but to a
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particular education that shows guides for these caregivers and others in a position first of seniors, and how are lawyers and financial institutions dealing with the risk of broad against their elderly clients. >> at the ftc we have a wide range of consumer materials available. we have materials focus specifically on seniors, or pass it on campaign has been highly effective for seniors. i think they have more materials on specifically caregivers and financial institutions of that nature. i may refute to my colleagues. >> thank you. i'm actually very happy to have this opportunity to tell you about one of our very popular publications. we call it mansions someone else's money. these are how to user-friendly guides for nonprofessional, fiduciaries. people who are
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taking care of the financial matters for a family member or friend. it includes information that helps the fiduciary know what their duties are. so in other words, if you're caring for someone and you have access to their money, it is not okay to buy a car with those funds. simple things like that which should be known, but unfortunately there is some confusion. in addition, in these guys include information about how to spot scams and fraud and what you can do to protect the person who you are cared for as i financial caregiver. caregiver. we have these national guides who and we are going to roll out state specific guides. including a template which would allow states to do their own as well. >> you mentioned you had 63000 complaints involving people 62
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years years of age and older, you mentioned mortgage related, debt collection, of course we had the data protection act that deals with a lot of it, of that 63,000, you're nothing all 63,000 more fraud, you're just in those were complaints that you're just in those were complaints that were register, correct. >> correct. if, in the time that i have for both mr. kaufman and ms. kane, i'm interested in the cross agency initiative that protects seniors from fraud, abuse, and the collective exploitation. would you both very quickly discuss your work with the elder justice court needing counsel and that department of health and human services, whether it has been constructed toward your agency's efforts and what do you think could be improved. >> if i may be allowed to continue could they answer on that. >> proceed. >> thank you.
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>> we are member of the council, we have participated in a number of vents, we partnered with organizations wrote the country, senior organizations we have found to be effective to share information with other law-enforcement agencies. i can't think of any improvements at the moment. >> thank you. >> so we are one of the 11 federal agencies that are been very active in participating in the coronation council. we to find too find it very helpful for cordoning our actions. each agency brings to the table different expertise and different jurisdictions. it is a situation where where we need all hands on deck. all were complements those verses regency. >> thank you very much, you'll back. >> thank you. the chair recognizes the gentleman from massachusetts. >> thank you mr. chairman. pleasure to have you here. i wanted to focus on an aspect
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of medicare if we can. open enrollment period. start october 15 and runs through december 7. for the nation's 54 beneficiaries this is an important time to consider changes to the health and drug plan. they should be vigilant during this time is also an opportunity for fraud. according to recent article by a world report, common request for medicare scam is a victim revealed their medicare number. it is important are members know how easy it is to spot open enrollment scams. i like to start with mr. kaufman. i understand the ftc won a victory in federal court last october after filing a complaint against the telemarketing scheme that was designed to trick, and did the trick seniors who are pretend to be part of medicare. can you describe that case and why that's important. >> sure, thank you for acknowledging that case. it's an important case.
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telemarketers were claiming to be affiliated with medicare. they falsely promised new cards for consumers and required them to provide their bank a account numbers. they would then with just several hundred dollars. it's consistent with the cases we have seen repeatedly that i misrepresented affiliations with government entities or other entities in order to scam consumers out of personal information and then out of financial benefits. >> so how does the ftc corneille with cms to prevent this type of rock? >> we do work with them, we talk to them, we issue alerts, when there are changes in health benefits that are publicly available, we know frauds will follow. that is one thing we have seen at the if there is a new program in a scare frauds will follow. we issue scam alerts and talk about a. >> and just so everyone is clear, is it true that medicare will never call or e-mail seniors with products offered or
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with a request for their medicare number. >> that is correct. they will not answer your bank account information in particular. >> insurance is not allowed to visit your home and sell any medicare products. >> that is my understanding but i would have to verify that. >> it is my understanding as well. >> so what should consumers do if they or someone they know receive one of these fake medicare solicitations? >> hopefully they have not provided their information, if they have, they should contact their bank immediately and try to rectify the situation. they should file a complaint file a complaint with the ftc at ftc got golf. >> thank you very much sir. >> any other witnesses have anything to say. and without a you'll back. >> i was just going to dig in my purse for my medicare card, every once in a while we hear from people who say, how come social security numbers are on
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the medicare card? so it is in the wallets of everybody who is over 65, we are told it would be very cumbersome and costly to change that, is that a bad idea? either one of you can answer? >> it's right there, so when we talk about medicare number, it's your social security number. >> i'm not sure about this i would have to look into that but i believe in that medicare reform that we passed in marsh in april of this year to the removal of the social security number was in the ways and means per provision it was added to a bill and it was passed earlier this year. i'll find find out about that for you. that was a weakness in the system.
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>> it is important that social security numbers not be shared or readily acceptable or publicly display. we be glad to talk to more about that issue. >> will maybe we did fix it, that is good. >> every now and then we do fix something. the chair recognizes the gentleman from oklahoma for five minutes. >> i can honestly say that i cannot tell you what a card for medicare looks like. i don't have one anyway, thank thank you so much for being here because something started happening to us about a month ago in our office which is very odd, we started getting people calling us and same they had received a call from our office. pretending to be from our office to get personal information. it worries me because they are automatic trust that we have built with our constituents and getting phone calls from people supposedly from our office.
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now i can imagine in business, we use use a rule that you only receive roughly around 1% of your actual complaints. i would wonder if that would play true that i'm only receiving about 1% of those were receiving those calls. now is there an enforcement, do we lack enforcement, do we lack the ability to go after these individuals, even if we get their information? what is? what is the penalty for doing this? can one of you talk on that. >> we have definite leasing rights and imposter scans. i have seen calls in my office from people who are contacted by me who were not contacted by me. it is definitely a scheme, were bringing action when we can find
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the perpetrator. we are civil law enforcement agency so we can only bring civil action. we also know criminal law-enforcement is looking at it as well. consumer education is an important focus here. >> were talked about consumer education but i will use my grandparents for example, they are checked out. and i'm not saying that in a bad way, my grandpa is 94 years old. drama is 89. they are not reading these manuals that come out, they're not getting online, they are not reading this stuff. we'll talk about the most vulnerable, those that do not grow up with computer. one that has a cell phone but the numbers are this big on it. the information is for younger generation, not these older generations. >> i would encourage you to take a look at our pass it on brochure. we have a one pager on imposter scans. it describes what the scans are, what they're trying to do and what consumers should do. we research with seniors to find
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out effective ways to communicate it. >> i get that, but what i'm saying is there an enforcement problem here, because it is growing. it is not going backwards. obviously it is profitable or they would not be doing it. so, how can we help you on the enforcement side of it? there has to be someone knowing that if you do this, there is a better chance you're going to get caught, not a slim chance you're going to get caught. >> we continue to be cases. there's always more we can do. they're more criminal law-enforcement agencies interested. i think the combination of the ftc working with other lovers and agencies is starting to make a dent. it is a problem. >> i believe, if if i understand correctly you have uncovered roughly $50 million in stolen assets. >> yes. >> what are your best tools? maybe we can work together here. if they ever recover that out of one county, i am just ward. >> i think we too are a civil organization. for us the more practical thing is to get the money back because they need it. the people we work with need it.
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i think criminal enforcement is important. when i first became public guardian almost 11 years ago i think it was fear cases, criminal, criminal cases being brought against these people. there are problems with witnesses and record-keeping. since then, it has increased the amount of litigation, both from the states attorney office in cook county as well as the u.s. atty. office. >> so what i am trying to get to, is what is the most effective tools you are using to make that happen, in one county to recover? >> we largely work with the probate activists. the specific section i call the citation section. we can recover recover properties that have been embezzled, stolen, concealed and so it is really lawyers doing our work and during our job. >> howdy by the people? >> we get referrals from all sources. from banks, neighbors, churches,
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hospitals. once we have an intake and if they qualify those are the cases we go up there. >> so basically you have to spend the time. you have to have the resources to spend the time. >> of that is absolutely true. when i first became public guardian we had one person working the line. because of the growth in this area we have added more resources, i and other people work on it. >> i appreciate it. mr. kaufman and others i appreciate what you're doing but i think we have to step up the enforcement side of it. as i go back to say what i said earlier, we have to make it where they believe there is a better chance they are going to get caught that a slim chance they're going to get caught. mr. chairman a deal back. >> the chair thinks the gentleman. yet five minutes for questions. >> thank you mr. chairman. in my home state of indiana, our attorney general is taking lead in combating fraud.
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six years ago they launched a free senior workshop that is travel to all counties in indiana and reach over 200,000 elderly and their families. i appreciate that we have to take a multilevel approach in working on this, whether as whether as the federal, state or local levels. i do have to say when we think about retirement security and i talk about security a lot when i'm out talking with constituents, people often are embarrassed, they don't want to share if they have been scammed, i appreciate the work you are all doing. they don't want to share their families. they don't want to talk about and i might even take a while for them to realize it i am curious, i'm a former u.s. attorney and i'm curious if any other u.s. attorneys office in
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the civil division or criminal division are engaged? i know they are on identity theft and that's something we've been working on for a very long time as the justice department is working on it, i'm curious if any of you are working with any attorney's office on task forces or civil or criminal division? this is for any of you we have a criminal liaison at the ftc we realize a lot of art cases should be prosecuted criminally to criminal law-enforcement since we started this program in 2003. well over 700 of our defendants have been prosecuted criminally. >> terrific. >> simon the consumer education division, i would have to get back to you regarding whether our enforcement team are engaged.
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i know we are in frequent contact with the department of justice, we have frequent communication with das around the country. with. >> in our small office, we we work with the u.s. attorney's office. the relationship has developed over the years and working with cases, so that has worked out very well. we have even worked with the postal inspector in some cases. i think it becomes for us, a relationship building and i think we have established that at least in chicago. >> thank you. with respect to your agencies, i'm curious as to how many people work on the specifically? how many ftes? going back to my days how many ftes are focused on this? >> at the ftc we do not have her attorneys designated as working
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specifically on senior issues. it spread throughout our bureau. we have a number of cases affecting seniors and it is an area of interest throughout our bureau. >> thank you. >> our office is small, we are determined and dedicated but we are small, under ten full-time employees. full-time employees. we have the benefit of being able to work with other divisions and offices throughout the bureau. when we become aware of a particular problem where it appears it may include violations of the law, we bring in other divisions that have the ability to engage in enforcement or supervision. we also have a markets division and research division two. we are frequently working, even though we are small we have the benefit of being able to work
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with others in the bureau. >> thank you. when the ftc does, on those rare occasions when you recover the funds, how is it determined, how do you ensure the victims received the fun. >> that is our first priority. if there's enough money to get back to consumers we get customer lists then do some sort of prorated distribution. sometimes are successful without sometimes were not. our number one priority is stopping the crime, number two is getting money back to consumers. >> how does that happen actually? >> we have an office in our office that coordinates. we have contractors that depending on the nature of the fraud will have customer list and we'll send out checks, sometimes there'll be a claims process. it varies it varies depending on how they were brought in. >> one less question if i might, how do we make sure mr. harris, when so many of these financial abuse go underreported, underrecognized, what would you like press to do?
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>> i think one of the things is lacking is organizations like mine. not just nests early that you guardianship work but focus on recovering monies on a local level, for seniors. there are a lot of people we can help and if there some way the federal government can support the assistance foundations or other legal services for establishing attorneys in those offices that focus specifically on that area, i think be very helpful. >> thank you for your work. >> we recognize gentleman from north carolina. you have five minutes. >> thank you very much mr. chairman for convening this important hearing today. thank you to the three witnesses.
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these questions are going to be directed at two of you, please don't take that personally but i know a little bit about cook county and public guardian program. it is one of the best in the nation. what was your predecessors name? >> patrick murphy. >> patrick murphy, that that was his name. my stepdaughter tracy,, don't get surprised, that was my stepdaughter. she worked for patrick for some years there in chicago. >> i never heard of the public guardian program until she went to work there. i the greatest amount of respect. thank you for the work you do's. the ftc recently created a program called pass it on. in which the commission reaches out to older americans with information of avoiding common types of fraud by contacting them in places where they gather and interact like libraries, clubs, and adult living facilities. so mr. kaufman let's start with you. can you ask laid my that approach may be more effective at disseminating the anti-fraud
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information then, say publishing the information on a website or or mailer question work. >> absolutely. we engage in research before we instituted the past program. we met with seniors who met with people answer provide support. we we asked what the best way was to communicate information. short, clear concise information on topics. we have given away 3 million copies of it to more than 8000 organizations run the country. there is a lot of research and thinking that went through. we will issue different aspects of it in the coming year. >> the pass that on initiative emphasizes the importance of striking the right tone and educating seniors about fraudulent schemes. that is respectful and nonjudgmental. do you find that seniors respond better to advice given to them by people of their own age? there and generation? how can financial honor this preference going forward? >> our research have shown that
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it is an effective tool. it's a a campaign we lost about a year ago. it has shown effectiveness and it has been successful. we have gotten positive feedback about the program. we will continue to monitor and see how it can be modified improved over time. >> as someone who also promotes financial literacy, do you agree with this approach in general. >> yes we do. we have very similar materials, or at least the type of materials that are written in plain language that are nonjudgmental, we frequently will use the ftc's material, the path that i materials and may go to conferences together and share tables and distribute materials jointly.
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>> finally, the fcc, the ftc conducted a workshop in october of last year that explored some of these issues including how fraud affects different communities in different ways. mr. kaufman, what were kaufman, what were some of the outcomes of this workshop in terms of the senior community, the consumer groups, and does the undersea know how to address the problems that are really unique? >> every community initiative we kicked off about a year and half ago. pass it on is one of the results of that. we had experts on senior issues that provide information on the best way to reach seniors. we we also looked at spanish-speaking americans, african-americans, that continues to be an important area of us. where they are targeting specific populations, we want to make sure law enforcement and education programs retell american. >> i think all three of you. i will send a record today, i need to be in the cannon building in 30 seconds so i will yield back.
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>> the chair thinks a gentleman. we recognize a gentleman from kentucky. yet five minutes. >> thank you very much. i appreciate that. i've been in another hearing of this subcommittee of the same committee so i apologize i miss some of it. mr. coughing, i will ask you some questions. how involved are your regional offices in combating fraud against the elderly? >> our regional offices we have a threat throughout the country they are incredibly involved. they do a good deal of our litigation, a lot of our fraud work. they also do a lot of outreach on the local level. our regional offices providing enormous benefits and it is important to us that there there and on the ground and bringing action and doing outreach. >> so i may have to get back to you with more detailed information because i don't want to say anything that may be incorrect. it is my understanding the regional office are mostly
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occupied by our examiners. we have a full team of examiners that are examining financial institutions, nonetheless, our headquarters we have a nationwide approach on our consumer education. >> do either of you, and may not be applicable to you, do either viewers measure engagement on a regional level to see if there are trends that target a scam in one area more than another. >> i will start. yes, absolutely. we are frequently going through our consumer complaints, just as one example. in the process of doing that we looked for geographical spikes and complaints and things like that. in addition we are frequently conferring with stakeholders
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that are nationwide around the country. having called and hearing from people on the ground that particular problems that they're seen. >> at the ftc we have posted 30 different common ground conferences throw the country. we get together lawn for sinners from federal agencies, local authorities, we have a daylong discussion on the issues we are seeing. it is way for us to get more information of what we're seeing. and to keep on top of trends that are happening. >> actually i wanted to go down more of the path of the pass it on program. when he said you're going to look at the effectiveness of the pass it on, i, i know you have other programs. what do you do when you do a
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review question work. >> it is challenging to measure the effectiveness and fraud. we bring law-enforcement, we do consumer education, our materials are popular there is a high demand and a lot of requests for. many organizations take our material and stamp their logo on it and use it. were delighted when they do it. measuring effectiveness is challenging. we keep bringing more cases and that is one measure of our success. the perception people have of our material is another as well. it's hard to measure how effective we are being. we do a survey every year of our consumer education website to see if consumers are satisfied with it. we have we have done well but that as well. >> it is sometimes hard to measure the crime that you prevent from being committed. thank you. i will yield back time. >> thank you. we we recognize gentleman from florida. five minutes. >> thank you. appreciate the panel further testimony. mr. kaufman, in your testimonies state the importance of the ftc recognizing trends and fraud.
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against the elderly as a population of older americans continues to grow, as you may know the number of seniors 65 and older will surpass americans age 18 for the first time. we are 18 years away from that, 2033. so, what resources it is the ftc putting toward trends in fraud against the elderly allocating resources to enforce against criminals targeting the elderly and educating seniors of the rest? >> is an important priority area force. our our database which has millions of complaints is a tool for us. we get this at the ftc and other law enforcement agencies they share information and put it into this database. we analyze it it and look for trends in development. will continue with law-enforcement and outreach it is an important priority for us.
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>> i want to commend you, i have had several senior seminars in my area in central florida and the ftc has participated in a have done a wonderful job. maybe this question is also for mr. harris, is is there a line, may be anonymous line that someone that may be a friend of a loved one who is having trouble, an elderly person is having trouble, maybe has taken advantage of where a person can call and reporting incident? >> week have complaints that ftc.calm/complaints. we also have a toll-free have a toll-free number 1877 ftc help. >> sir, is there a number, i know you do a wonderful job but some seniors do not qualify for your services. do you refer some seniors to other programs?
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so they can be held. also is there an anonymous line or 211, we have 211 in florida, where a person can call and be made aware of some of these services? it specifically is there an anonymous lined where maybe a friend of of a loved one who is having difficulty can share those concerns with your particular program question marks. >> with my office you can call her office directly at (312)603-0800 we would refer you to an adult protective services agency that is monitored or you can call 311. you can get help in that way as well. >> what are the ways you gather information with regard to may be candidates need your services question work. >> we talked to medical providers, doctors, we also have
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some invested good tory power to look at previous reports of adult abuse or exploit tatian. we also have some access to financial records. if we open it for an intake. we use subpoena power once we have a case that is open. other legal tools like depositions and other discovery tools. >> very good. thank you. i will follow the trend and you'll back my time. >> the chair thinks the gentleman, the chair does want to observe his question came up on medicare numbers and socials care and numbers on medicare cards. that indeed was part of the law that was passed in april.
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my understanding, i have staff who are always watching me, they provide me the information. i think it is within four years time it is an agreement between the sec. of health secretary of health and human services in the commission for social security. that is a change that is coming. it is not going to be an immediate change, if anyone gets their medicare card in a few months it very well may not reflect that change. it has been passed by the house and senate and signed into law 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.
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>> 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,
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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
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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.
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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 business. 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
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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
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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 thank you. >> the chair thinks the gentleman. >> my turn? >> chairman, ranking members, committee members, thank members, thank you for inviting me to speak think.
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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
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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. >> ..
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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
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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
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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.
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>> 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
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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
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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
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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.
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>> 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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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


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