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tv   Hearing Focuses on Financial Fraud Targeting Senior Citizens  CSPAN  March 1, 2017 8:50pm-10:43pm EST

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>> i heard rumors of this guy's lifestyle for a while. i wanted to wait and see if anything else became public want this guy, about a year later, i started looking his life and into his campaign donations, in his spending, into what made him one of washington's top drug company lobbyists. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's "q&a." next, a senate panel investigates financial scams targeting senior citizens. we'll hear from a victim of an irs impersonation telemarketing scheme. senator susan collins of maine chairs the senate committee on aging.
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>> good afternoon. that was to wake all of you up. i'm pleased to welcome both new and returning members to the committee and i'm delighted that my good friend, senator casey, will be serving as the committee's new ranking member during this congress. i want to specifically welcome senator catherine cortez-masto from the great state of nevada to the committee. we look forward to having you join our work. and of course, it's wonderful to welcome back senator gillibrand who's been so committed to this issue. the issues that we have explored as well. speaking of senator gillibrand, i understand that her son, theo,
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is here today. he is doing a special class project so he got an excused absence to be at our hearing today for the project that he is doing. and i know that's going to be a very interesting project. my apologies also that this hearing had to be delayed from when it was first scheduled on february 1st due to a long series of votes on the senate floor. during this congress, this committee will continue its focus on three major issues. first, retirement security. we want to make sure that our seniors has sufficient resources so that they don't outlive their savings or find that their golden years end in poverty. second, biomedical research
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investments. for diseases like alzheimer's and diabetes that disproportionately affect our seniors. and third, financial schemes and other scams targeting older americans and that is the subject of today's hearing. last summer, an 81-year-old constituent came into my office in portland, maine, with an alarming story of deception and cruelty. a con artist claiming to be an irs agent had just cheated him out of $8,000. and he narrowly avoided losing $15,000 more. after reporting the crime to the local police, my constituent, philip hatch, and his son, came
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into my office. my staff gave him a copy of the fraud book that this committee produced last year as well as a special postcard that we created with tips on how to avoid scams. mr. hatch told us that the tactics described in the materials provided were exactly those that were used by the scammer. if only he had received that information sooner, he might have recognized the scam and avoided losing his hard-earned savings. mr. hatch was very willing to testify today and to share his story but health issues prevent him from traveling. instead, he graciously and courageously provided a video in
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order to share his experience and we'll see that video in a moment. this episode demonstrates two important points. first, the criminals who prey on our seniors are relentless. they will harass seniors over and over again until they have drained every penny from their life savings. second, this committee's longstanding dedication to fighting fraud against seniors is raising awareness and prompting enforcement actions that are making a real difference. we must redouble our efforts to educate seniors, their families and their caregivers. the stakes are extremely high. according to the government accountability office, america's
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seniors lose a staggering $2.9 billion each year to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes and scams. today's hearing coincides with the release of our committee's 2017 fraud work. like the book that we published last year, it lists the top ten scams being perpetrated against seniors along with information on how to recognize, avoid and report them. in both years, the irs impersonation scam was the leading offender. these lists reflect the calls made to our committee's toll free hotline. in 2015, hotline staff fielded more than 1,100 calls.
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last year, the hotline's call volume doubled to more than 2,200 calls. it's clear that our efforts are raising public awareness and more important, our efforts are producing real results. i look forward this morning to the testimony of the treasury inspector general's office on recent evolutions in the irs imposter scam such as the demand for payment in itunes gift cards to which mr. hatch and many others have fallen victim. raising awareness about the irs scam is particularly timely as we are in the midst of tax filing season. last may, thanks to the work of our hotline investigators, the
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i.g. arrested five individuals in connection with the irs imposter scam. federal authorities believe that these suspects stole almost $3 million from more than 1,200 victims. in october, 56 individuals and 5 call centers in india were indicted in another important case. in addition to producing criminal charges, these efforts are making it more difficult for criminals to find victims. i also look forward to hearing from the federal trade commission on other scams that are targeting our seniors such as those involving grants, counterfeit checks and romance schemes, which are particularly timely with yesterday being valentine's day. as our 2017 fraud book makes
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clear, while we are certainly making progress, far too many victims are still losing money and often their retirement savings. law enforcement consumer advocates, area agencies on aging, aarp, and financial institutions play vital roles, but alert citizens are still our first and best line of defense. i'm proud of our committee's work on this crucial issue to help seniors become more aware and more informed and to put criminals on notice that they will be stopped and brought to justice. i'm now very pleased to turn to our new ranking member, senator casey, for his opening statement. >> chairman collins, thank you very much for your leadership and for convening this hearing. the first hearing of the
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committee on aging. a special committee on aging. for the 115th congress. to discuss senior scams, as she just outlined. also, i want to thank her for working with me to address issues impacting older americans, even before the start of this congress. i'd also like to welcome new members of the committee. i know right now we have senator cortez-masto here. we're grateful that she's with us. and of course, senator gillibrand who's been with the committee for a number of years. we're grateful for that help, especially on these critically important issues for our families. the aging committee has historically been a committee that fosters both collaboration and bipartisanship on issues facing older americans and that was, again, abundantly clear by the voice vote we held off of the senate floor two weeks ago to approve the committee budget and the committee rules.
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and i think i was late for that hearing but -- >> i wasn't going to mention that. >> -- somehow my voice got recorded but i want to thank the chairman for that. it's my sincere hope that that will continue and i'm sure that it will. the future of key programs for older americans like medicare, medicaid and others are also critically important to the agenda of this committee. we have a responsibility, i believe, to protect these vital programs for older americans. today, we have the opportunity to hear from experts who will give us testimony on the challenging issue of combatting fraud and scams which, of course, target older americans and affect older americans as well as their families. experts testifying today include diane menio from pennsylvania, from a senior advocacy organization that i worked with over many years.
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carie. and i'll talk more about diane in a moment, but i want to thank her and her organization's work for what you've done for years to help those who are potential victims of these kinds of scams. also pleased to have joined senator collins in releasing a committee report detailing the top ten scams targeting our nation's seniors that you saw a moment ago. the report is based upon the experiences of more than 2,200 individuals who contacted the committee's fraud hotline over the past year. it will inform the work of this committee going forward. also happy to join with the chairman in reintroducing the senior safe act last week. this important legislation both encourages financial institutions to disclose suspected exploitation of seniors when they see it and protects them from being sued for making these reports if they have an appropriately trained -- if they have, i should say,
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appropriately trained their staff and made good faith reports. in the commonwealth of pennsylvania, more than one in six seniors -- one in six residents is 65 years and older. in 2015, 22,000 cases of suspected elder abuse and neglect were reported by the pennsylvania department of aging's protective services program. that's why last spring i held a field hearing in wilkes-barre, pennsylvania, to hear directly from the constituents, both those affected by scams and those trying to prevent these scams. just by way of example, a constituent from kingston township told the heartbreaking story of a scam artist attempting to steal the identity and use credit cars of her husband of 43 years after, after his death. the luzerne county district attorney highlighted the most common type of scam happening
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today. at least in that area. the sweepstakes or lottery scam. victims are promised lottery winnings if they just pay off a sizable so-called taxes and fees upfront. the district attorney recalled one older victim being scammed out of $85,000 in the hope of retrieving $1 million in fake lottery winnings. while experts struggle to estimate the total financial impact of scams targeting seniors, mainly because it's so underreported, they know that it adds up to nearly $3 billion a year in lost savings and potentially billions more. it isn't just money that's lost in these scams. it's older americans' sense of security and financial independence. it's outrageous for people who have worked -- worked very hard all their lives and are being targeted for their nest eggs when they're at their most vulnerable and it's wrong that seniors still feel afraid to report these schemes. they should not be embarrassed or ashamed. they should know we have their backs and we're here to help
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them fight back. that's why enforcement is such a critical part of this discussion. while it may not be easy to track down these increasingly sophisticated scammers and their domestic and international networks and hold them accountable, we must do so for the safety and security of our parents and grandparents. recently, senator collins and i applauded the federal trade commission and justice department settlement with western union in which the company admitted to criminal anti-money laundering violations that have disproportionately affected aging americans. this settlement, $586 million in the settlement, will be used to compensate victims of fraud, western union agents were complicit in the scam. we'll continue to use the spotlight of this committee to both help consumers understand
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the threat and highlight the need for action. it's for this reason i'll continue to fight to ensure that the consumer financial protection bureau has the resources that it needs, the cfpb houses the only federal office solely focused on sharing financial information with seniors, and educating seniors about how to prevent becoming the victim of fraud. until recently, this office was led by former pennsylvania secretary of aging, nora dowd eisenhower, in the first row of our hearing today. we need to keep up the fight to ensure the affordable care act fraud and abuse provisions are in place. we know that the government has realized a record-breaking $10.7 billion in recovery of health care fraud in the last 3 years. increasing -- having new tools that increased federal sentencing guidelines for health care fraud and on from there. we also know that proposals that
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i will oppose like block granting medicaid could present states with real challenges when it comes to addressing waste, fraud and abuse in programs. finally, in order to make -- in order to continue the good work, i should say, of the witnesses here today, as well as others, and to support our colleagues at the -- in other parts of the government, social security administration and other departments in maintaining a skilled workforce, i'm seriously concerned about the impact of the federal hiring freeze and how that will affect middle-class families. so i look forward to hearing from our witnesses and, again, want to thank our chairman for gathering us today on this important topic. >> thank you very much, senator casey. i want to welcome another new member of our committee, senator marco rubio. senator rubio represents the state with the highest percentage of senior citizens.
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i represent the state with the oldest median age. that's because a lot of my seniors go to florida, though they tend to spend exactly six months and one day there. i'm not quite sure, but i have a feeling it has to do with taxes. but it -- it is great to have you as a member of the committee, and i want to welcome back senator warren who was here briefly and i'm sure will be returning as well. we'll now turn to our panel of witnesses. first we're going to view a brief video from mr. philip hatch. he is from portland, maine, and he'll share his personal experience dealing with the irs impersonators that i mentioned in my opening statement. next, we'll hear from tim camus, he is the deputy inspector general for investigations at the u.s. treasury department's
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office of inspector general for tax administration. that may be one of the longest titles of any witness that we ever have. but his office has done extraordinary work and i want to thank him. next we'll welcome back to the committee, lois greisman, associate director of the division of marketing practices at the bureau of consumer protection at the federal trade commission. better known as the ftc. and senator casey has already introduced our final witness for the day, diane menio. we're very happy to have her here, too. menio. did i get it right that time? thank you. i want to thank you all for joining us and we'll now start with the video. >> my name is philip hatch. i'm 81 years old and i'm from portland, maine. born and raised. i received a telephone call,
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answered the phone and the man said he was a representative from the internal revenue service. i said, what can i do to help you? he said, well, we've gone through the records and there's been a mistake here on your returns and you owe us $5,988 and some odd cents. so i said, fine, tell me who i make the check out to and where do i mail it? he says, we can't do that. we have a warrant out for your arrest and the marshals will be in your house within an hour. and i said, well, what would you like me to do to help resolve this? they said you can go to cvs and get those itunes cards and just when you come back, you can read the numbers off to us. i said, that doesn't sound like a very professional way to do it. he said, well, it's either that or the marshals coming. if we can do this, we can tell them not to come.
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so i did, i went and got these little itune cards, came back, read the numbers off them and they said, okay, now, you can't tell anybody about this. i said, what do you mean, i can't tell anybody about this? i'm going to tell my guy that makes up my tax returns. i'm a little mad at him, you know? he made a mistake. no, don't do that, everything will be taken care of. this started at 4:00 in the afternoon and went on until 8:00 at night. they called me the next day and they said there was a mistake. i said what do you mean a mistake? it wasn't $5,900 and something, $23,000. they had somebody call me on the regular phone, i'm still on my cell phone, and say that he was a portland police officer and that they had a local warrant for my arrest. so i put my son on the phone and he goes, who's this? and they said, well who's this? he goes -- he gave them a phony name, said he was an fbi agent and they said, whoops, and they
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hung up. and that was the end of it. but i had already sent in $8,000 to these people. being in the military and being working for the government and, you know, the government calls up, you say, aye aye, sir, what do you need, can i help you? okay. maybe if i hadn't had that background, i wouldn't have been so cooperative, but i was mad, upset that i was taken in. just give me five minutes in a room alone with those people and i'd be happy. all i can say is just be wary, you know? you know, just be careful and when it comes to someone going after your money, just say, listen, i'll think about it over tonight and you can get back to me tomorrow. and then contact someone and find out. that's the best advice i could do. >> as you can see, this is really outrageous and
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illustrates the lengths to which these criminals will go and a lot of times they do target people who are either isolated or have been in the military. we did a whole hearing on scams that are directed at those who've been in the military, and they will stop at nothing. they kept mr. hatch on the phone for 4 hours, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., getting him to go from place to place to buy the itunes card which is a new variation that we're seeing on the irs imposter scam. and it frightens people when they get a call from someone claiming to be from the irs. it frightens all of us to get that kind of call. and it's become so sophisticated that these con artists can spoof the number so it looks like if
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they have caller i.d., it will say u.s. treasury. so that makes them think that it is for real. and it just shows that they will stop at nothing. i'd now like to call on our first witness who is actually here with us, mr. camus, for his testimony. >> thank you, senator. chairman collins, ranking member casey, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the topic of financial frauds affecting seniors. over the past three years, tigta has conducted numerous investigations on the issue of irs-related frauds and scams. telephone impersonation scams, sweepstakes or lottery scams, and e-mail and phishing scams are among the top ten fraud schemes used by criminals to target senior citizens. i will highlight two major irs-related scams we've been investigating. the first is a telephone
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impersonation scam in which more than 1.8 million americans reported to us that they've received unsolicited telephone calls from individuals falsely claiming to be irs employees. the second is a so-called sweepstakes or lottery scam which has reemerged as a significant threat to the integrity of tax administration. the telephone impersonation scam continues to be one of tigta's top priorities. no one is immune from receiving these calls. i receive calls, myself. tigta made numerous arrests in s connection with this scam and we have a number of significant investigations that are still under way. for example, this committee made a direct referral to tigta involving a senior citizen located in florida who was so frightened by the impersonators that following their directions, he immediately drove to his local walmart while remaining on
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the phone with them. during the drive, he crashed his vehicle and continued on foot in order to obtain a money gram payment as demanded by the impersonators. tigta special agents worked diligently on this referral and ultimately identified five suspects in miami, florida. these suspects were arrested by tigta special agents for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. in october 2016 after an extensive 3-year joint investigation, the department of justice obtained an indictment on 56 individuals, 24 of whom were located in the united states, and 5 call centers located in india. the investigation identified approximately $272 million of total fraud and thousands of victims involving multiple trod schemes. this is the largest single law enforcement action to date involving the irs impersonation scam and the operation's success is a result of excellent cross-agency collaboration and the efforts of hundreds of tigta employees who participated in this investigation.
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in addition, tigta has taken numerous other steps to fight this crime. for example, we created a strategy designed to shut down the impersonators' call-back numbers. we've also developed an outstanding working relationship with the federal trade commission and the federal communications commission to combat this scam. we have worked with the aarp and the veterans' administration on public warning messages. tigta has also employed a public awareness campaign. we recorded five videos that received over 71,000 views, and we have provided approximately 100 print and media interviews resulting in over 4,400 news stories in both large and small media markets resulting in an estimated 113 million views. we also worked with the private sector such as walmart and apple who were used in this massive fraud. these companies are now helping us to warn consumers about the scam. as a result of all of these efforts, the impersonation scams' impact on the public has been significantly reduced.
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today, there are 92% fewer reported calls each week and the 93% fewer victims reported to us that they paid the scammers money. however, the problem has not gone away entirely and the volume is starting to come back. for example, we received on average 1,000 reported calls per week in early january and our data for last week shows we received over 4,600 calls for the week. i believe sustained investigative efforts and ongoing outreach to ensure people do not become victims in the first place is critical to our success in fighting this scam. another fraud scheme, the lottery scam, has continued to target and victimize senior citizens. its premise is simple. the scammers contact victims to advise them that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes but first they need to pay a nonexistent federal tax or fee in order to receive the prize. over the last few years, tigta
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has conducted investigations that have identified over 30 individuals who were responsible for defrauding victims out of millions of dollars. we have obtained some prosecutions and we're working on others to address this crime. in summary, we at tigta take seriously our mandate to protect american taxpayers and the integrity of the internal revenue service. as such, we plan to continue investigate coverage in this area and we look forward to our continued collaboration and discussion on ways we can fight these types of frauds and scams in the future. chairman collins, ranking member casey, and members of the committee, thank you so much for your support and for the opportunity to share my views. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman collins, ranking member casey, and members of the committee. i am very happy to appear before you again to discuss the ftc's
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broad efforts to protect seniors against frauds which is a critical part of its consumer protection mission. these efforts are driven through the ftc's law enforcement work, its coordination with u.s. and international partners and with a tremendous emphasis, its education and outreach initiatives. first just a quick overview. as you know, the population of older americans is growing rapidly. by 2013, more than one-fifth of u.s. residents will be over age 65. now throughout our law enforcement work, we train a deliberate eye on whether fraudsters are targeting specific consumer populations and in particular, whether they're targeting seniors. we do see that certain types of fraud, such as medicare imposter scams, deceptive pitches for medical alert devices, brain-training programs to treat cognitive impairments such as alzheimer eegs, supplements for
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joint pain, all may be directed specifically to seniors. in areas such as the technical support scam, where scammers impersonate, for example, dell or microsoft and lead you to believe your computer is in dire straits and only they have the remedy to fix it, we do think seniors may be disproportionately impacted. and with tigta and has deputy inspector camus just indicated, we have strong partners in our work, particularly on combatting the irs imposter scam. but as a practical matter, scammers care little about their victims' age. as a result, we see seniors impacted across the entire spectrum of our consumer protection work from investment in business opportunity frauds, to bogus health care products, to timeshare resale frauds. i want to take a moment to highlight as ranking member casey referred to the recent $586 million settlement with western union. a good many iterations of fraud flowed through western union's money transfer system, but we know based on the investigation
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that lottery scams, so-called emergency scams such as the grandparent scam and the online dating or romance scams were well represented among the complaints the company received and we know that these types of scams often target and impact older consumers. in addition to the more than half billion dollar settlement, the ftc's order requires western union to implement a comprehensive anti-fraud program that among other things will require suspension or termination of problematic agents under certain requirements and as you mentioned the department of justice entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the company at the same time. not only has the ftc proceeded against money transfers, this morning, an announcement with a florida man and his company helped telemarketers in india dupe consumers in the u.s. to pay hundreds, thousands of dollars for taxes they did not owe.
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the telemarketers as we heard from mr. hatch pretended to be from the irs or this case another government agency, and told them to pay via money gram or western union. u.s.-based entities that orchestrated having runners literally driving up and down the florida coast to various retain stores to collect the money transfers before consumers realized they'd been scammed and could take some action. and as you know, ftc law enforcement regularly collaborates with our partners here, state and federal, as well as internationally and for these purposes i want to simply note we and our colleagues have spent considerable time working with law enforcement and other stakeholders here and in india to curb illegal telemarketing hitting the u.s. finally, we continue to improve upon and build out our poseidon education effort. i'm sure you're familiar with this.
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we've shared it with you many times. it's aimed at active adults. this is our signature initiative. it reaches seniors in social clubs, libraries, senior centers, veterans facilities. we recently added a new video of how an investor scam harmed a retired teacher. we also recently posted another new video about the passedon campaign, itself. highlighting how important it is for an older consumer to be the one who helps friends and families to avoid being -- excuse me, to avoid being victimized. we continue to use these resources and promote them with our state and federal partners. in some, through aggressive law enforcement, strategic policy initiatives and innovative consumer education, we will continue to tackle scammers that exploit older consumers. look forward to your questions. thank you. >> thank you very much. miss menio? >> good afternoon.
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my name is diane menio. i'm the executive director of the center for advocacy of the rights and interests of the elderly. i just thought i'd say the full name so you know why we have a girl's name for the name. thank you, senator casey, chairwoman collins and members of the committee for your interest in financial exploitation fraud and scams against the elderly and for the opportunity to present testimony today. two weeks ago, charlotte from pennsylvania, volunteer in our pennsylvania senior medicare patrol program, accompanied me here to the hearing. unfortunately she couldn't make it today but i know she's here in spirit. she was very excited to be at the senate at all. so she's -- and she works very hard with us. and so i'm -- today i'm going to talk about health care fraud. i'm going to also talk about abuse scams and financial exploitation targeting the elderly and how carie is working to protect seniors across the state of pennsylvania. founded in 1977, carie is a
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non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for frail or elderly adults. carie works to protect the rights of older adults and promote awareness of their special needs and concerns. in addition, we provide a range of services to help older victims of crime, abuse and financial exploitation including a program that helps elder victims through the core process and assists with victim impact statements and crime victims compensation. in addition, carie coordinates pennsylvania's senior medicare patrol program to help fight medicare and medicaid fraud. we have more than 75 retired medicare beneficiaries who provide that information about health care fraud and share information about how to prevent being victimized. while we talk about the great toll that financial exploitation exacts on its victims, it's important to note that the problem of exploitation impacts many people, whether their net worth is in the millions, the thousands or even the hundreds. every day, carie peer volunteers like charlotte talk to individuals who have been victims of these horrendous crimes and look for solutions to provide guidance to prevent
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scams from occurring in the first place. additionally, we send out scam wire alerts that help to identify new threats to the aging community that seek to involve elders and fraud through mailings, e-mail, community meetings and phone calls. i'd like to share just a few stories about cases we hear every day. 71-year-old mary from philadelphia was contacted by an individual representing himself as a spokesman for publishers clearing house. mary was told she had won several hundred thousand dollars but had to pay the taxes on the prize. she initially sent them $200. then she was contacted again and told her she misunderstood and she needed to send another $2,850 in cash via the united states postal service. mary finally thought better of what she did and filed a police report. she initially admitted to the first mailing but after talking to our victim advocate revealed the second amount that she sent and she told us that she was very embarrassed and that's why
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she hadn't reported it right away and that's why she was only willing to talk about the $200 at first because she felt that that wasn't so bad. but the extra money made her very embarrassed. so she did after talking to our victim advocate talked to the police about that, gave them the information that she was given, the address and the phone number of the person that had called her, but, of course, they couldn't find that person anymore. unfortunately, she couldn't get the money back from the crime victims assistance fund because there's a time limit involved with that. we just really need to offer some of these people more security and more ability to resist these crimes. gloria who is 88 and from delaware county in pennsylvania received a phone call from a person claiming to be her grandson. when she questioned why he didn't sound like himself, he said he was in an auto accident and the fair bag hit his face and that's why it happened.
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scammed out of $7,000 with itunes cards. older people don't know what the itunes card is about but are told to go and get these. this was, again, one that the two-year period had expired. on an encouraging note, mrs. smith, a homebound beneficiary, lives in central pennsylvania, called us to thank us to let us know she received our scam wire alert in the morning delivered in her home-delivered meal package. that same afternoon she received a phone call from a scammer and wanted us to know she knew not to give out any personal information because of the alert. it's stories like these that keep us at it every day. we have seen many similar cases. you'll see many more examples in my testimony. i could even give you more. the need to prevent financial exploitation is a national imperative. we know older adults and their families must talk about and plan for the possible incapacity as well. for those showing early signs of dementia, this is particularly important as they may eventually
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lose all capacity to make decisions. financial capacity is often the first to go. we do try to work toward positive change. my time's running out so i'm going to conclude here. we are very pleased that the bipartisan attention to elder fraud that the committee is working on and the senior safe act which builds on lessons learned from organizations like ours. thank you, again, and we're very pleased to work with you on this issue and are here for anything you need. thank you. >> thank you so much for your testimony. mr. camus, you mentioned the direct referral from our committee's hotline to your that resulted in the arrests of five suspects who allegedly were responsible for almost $3 million in schemes that defrauded more than 1200 vict1, victims. this was truly an appalling case we passed on to you.
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the senior citizen was so upset that he crashed his car on the way to the local walmart to get the debit card and he was convinced that he was going to be arrested immediately so he leaves the scene of the crash and walks the rest of the way to walmart. we were able to determine the money was sent and picked up in minnesota and provided your office with that information and i really appreciated that you acted on it. could you please give us an update on that case since the arrests last may? >> yes, senator. i'd be proud to. we had one of the subjects has been -- pled guilty and he's been sentenced to two years in prison and he's been ordered to pay $98,000 in restitution to multiple victims. the other defendants are going through the various stages of the legal system right now, but we anticipate they, too, will be brought to justice here in the
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very near future. >> that's great news to hear. miss greisman, i'm also really pleased to hear the ftc has stepped up its efforts and you mentioned the agreement or the settlement with western union that have been made, and i am interested in whether or not that $586 million is going to end compensating any of the victims. were you able to trace the money that had been lost, and will some of the victims be compensated? >> thank you. that is precisely the goal of the settlement. the department of justice, pursuant to the two settlements will be the claims administrator and it will take it upon, do
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their best job to try to reach out to victims and provide redress. >> that is so important because in the vast majority of these cases, once the money has been wired, it is gone forever. and it's very difficult to trace and that's why i really appreciated not only the settlement with western union that's going to lead to some restitution, but the quick work of the inspector general's office for tax administration that really stopped a fraud in progress. and that's the kind of cooperation we need across government. one of the things that truly trust rays me about these con artists is that they're very clever and they are always changing their tactics to stay
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ahead of theests esfforts an enforcement. i think we're all making a difference. the fact is the calls to our hotline doubled last year to man 2,200. and i'm going to bring up a chart which demonstrates why scammers -- it's a little busy there, but why they are continuously changing their strategies. let me explain it since it's a bit busy, as i said. between november 2014 and early 2016 the losses per month in the irs impersonation scam averaged approximately $1 million. it's $1 million loss per month. however, starting in the spring of 2016 the losses were month
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increased to $2 million to $4 million. and i can see mr. camus nodding his head in agreement. it stayed at about that level through the end of last year. and what happened during that time is the scammers made a change and they're no longer using the walmart debit card as much. they've gone to the itunes card which struck me as very strange because i thought you used those to buy records. but perhaps i'm out of it. but mr. camus, i'd like you to comment on whether the change in tactics plus the relentlessness that we've heard about from mr. hatch where they call again and again and the next day with more
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demands, has that made scammers more successful in terms of the money they're bringing in, even if the number of victims has declined? >> yes. we noted in april, senator, april 2016 that there's a shift to the itunes card as a method of payment. they also redoubled their efforts on their autodialer program so they're able to make hundreds of thousands of telephone calls in a very short order. when the scam -- to your point, exactly, when the scam first started, it was individuals calling one on one. then when they shifted to the autodialer technology, they were able to blanket individuals with hundreds of thousands of calls leaving a callback number. about the same time they shifted to the itunes card, what we learned in our investigation was the itunes cards makes it very easy for them to flip the money. they're no longer paying middlemen to convert payments into money orders.
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they're now selling the itunes cards on a third-party market and pocketing the money immediately. and also it's very difficult for law enforcement to trace that transaction. >> thank you. senator casey. >> thanks very much. diane, i'm going to start with you. and not simply because you're a pennsylvanian but most especially because of your long work. i mentioned as well in my opening comments the acronym and i want to put the words behind the acronym. dia diane, you've worked for, we'll call it a couple years -- >> yeah, just a few. >> just a few. i guess i can say decades. >> it's 28 years. >> 28. for the center for advocacy for the rights and interests of the elderly. so-called, carie. so we're grateful for that work. one question i had was how do you coordinate in your work with both state authorities, federal
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authorities, sometimes the most difficult challenge in any investigation is to the coordination of it. how do you do that and is there anything we should know about those issues? >> yeah, it sure is challenging sometimes. but in pennsylvania, we actually have a network of elder abuse task forces that operate in various counties across the state. in philadelphia our task force is specifically focused on financial exploitation. so we have bankers and others at the table. i think that's one of the best ways to coordinate, is to actually know these people, be able to sit around the table, talk about the problem. sometimes we do case reviews. so, you know, you get to talk about how this case got played out through the system. and it helps us. last year, you know, i know that the committee had a hearing about the drug mules that were being used and one of the calls about that came in to our office about a gentleman who was from pennsylvania and jailed in japan.
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and we were frustrated by that because we started calling everybody we could think of and we found no help for that family. but eventually he did get out. when we were at the task force meeting we talked about that case and someone from homeland security was there and we shared, they wanted -- they gave us their card and said can you share the information about the family? and so we talked to the family and we were able to connect them with homeland security. so it's that kind of collaborative work i think that is very important because we have to know one another. and reaching out to community groups that are in the community that actually work with older adults, working with law enforcement. i mean, we do this in our health care fraud program as well. it's very important that we can get to the oig's office, that the fbi is involved, all these other groups so we can get to the bottom of this. it's not always the same agency. so we try to work in collaboration as much as we can. >> i want to ask as well about
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you mentioned health care fraud. the so-called senior medicare patrol. i know you've worked very hard with that, with that patrol. we're having a big debate here about the affordable care act and this is one area where there's a very strong set of numbers that aligns with the progress that's been made over the last couple of years in combating medicare fraud. what's -- to the extent that you can give an opinion on what happens with regard to the aca, if it were to be repealed, repealed and not replaced -- i know that that's a big subject of debate. but just give us your sense of the impact of the medicare fraud patrol. >> well there's a number of
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issues that i think have impacted the health care fraud, you know, uncovering health care fraud but also just medicare and other provisions as well that we think are very important looking at nursing homes and a number of other issues. but one of the things the affordable care act did and it sort of related to your last question, it allowed agencies like cms, medicaid, department of veterans' affairs, social security administration and other to data share, to help them identify criminals who are defrauding. sometimes we'll get a call -- we had a lady in philadelphia who was a podiatrist and she went into chinatown. she was part of that community. and she started basically getting people's medicare numbers and billing. turned out she was billing, like, hundreds of thousands in the dollars, it actually was in the millions. at one point she was vacationing in paris when those bills were submitted. it's really important, you know, because we had a couple of complaints from these beneficiaries and that's probably not going to rise to the level of a major
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investigation. but once you start looking at the data you can see what's happening. and so that is extremely critical. it's important to see because these criminals are going across programs. they're similar to the other scammers. they're setting up business where it's opportunistic business. the other thing that i think is important is that they created -- the affordable care act created a medicare fraud strike force. i think that cost about $350 million. and so far it's recovered more than $10 billion. so there's real good economic advantage to doing this work. because when they do find these scammers, as i said, a lot of them are very large-scale. the one i talked about was probably small compared to some of the large-scale. i know in florida, for instance, there were these groups, these storefronts set up to basically pay medicare beneficiaries for their medicare numbers. and so it made these beneficiaries complicit in the fraud.
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they certainly didn't understand what was happening. they were getting $10 or $20 or something like that. but they didn't understand what was going on. so we really need to continue to do this work to make sure that we're combating this stuff. and it just sometimes to us, when we're getting the complaints, it seems all too easy and sometimes the solution seems easy, too. so we really need to make sure that we're looking at how to make these systems work. and i think the more this -- what was provided for in the affordable care act has created some results and we need to continue doing that. >> i appreciate that. i'm out of time but we'll come back. thanks. >> thank you. senator rubio. >> thank you, madam chair. i want to continue to build on what you just mentioned about the storefronts and it's a topic that a lot of people aren't aware of. what we have in florida, what we have in south florida, in particular today, is an outrageous case of medicare fraud. i say this to you with a cuban
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american with deep regret and sometimes shame about this reality. we have literally 50 to 100 individuals mostly recent arrivals from cuba who arrive in the united states, somehow figure out how to set up a medicare company, usually a storefront, often a p.o. box. they then acquire a medicare numbers from a runner, somebody who works at a hospital, and they begin to bill those medicare numbers for no services provided. to the tunes of hundreds of thousands of dollars. i've been flat-out told by law enforcement in south florida in particular, if they don't get greedy and are willing to steal $200 to $300 a month, they're probably not going to get caught. they're stealing to the tune of millions of dollars. the list of the top most wanted medicare fraudsters in america they are almost entirely from south florida and almost entirely recent arrivals from the island of cuba and when we're about to arrest them, they know they're coming, they leave to cuba for millions of dollars. it's an outrage.
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it's grotesque. it has been covered by the press in south florida. people may think that seniors aren't victims. they are victims. number one, it's helping to further exacerbate the troubles of medicare and many in cases, you're absolutely right, seniors are told, there's nothing wrong with this, it's legal, come in, all you have to do is sit down for an interview, give us your medicaid number and it's their account being billed and sometimes they get wrapped up in. when i tell people this they don't believe -- this is organized crime. it is organized crime and they are brazen about it and laugh about it because they know they can just leave and are protected if they leave the country. my mother is a senior and this is why i want to ask you this question. she has been the target in the past. i just recalled this as we were having a conversation. she suffered a stroke in 2011, largely homeridden except she goes to therapy. she gets calls about taxes she owes. i know enough about my mom to know she's not made a lot of money ever.
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certainly in the last coupling ye years she's not been employed. she relies exclusively on social security and small savings. so we get the number. even though i am in this position of public service, first of all, i didn't know who to call about the time. number two, it's caller i.d. there's nothing i can do about it. but even if i had been able to lure them into an extensive conversation, i'm not sure if i should have gone to local government, the fbi, a little bit of confusion about who to take it to, that's number one. the second is her caregiver. she had people that come during the day and watch her a little bit sometimes, make sure she's taking her meds, are the people answering. we have to educate them all. and the third is the language barrier. my mother speaks english but her first language was spanish. that's where she watches the soap operas every night. which i don't fully understand soap operas, why they're so popular, but she watches them on the spanish language networks and a lot of people being targeted for this are also being targeted because of the language
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barrier. i guess in all of that is embedded the following questions. what can we do to improve the caregivers, people answering the phones when these calls are coming. like, do we recommend that they actually talk to these people, engage them and try to play detective or do we just tell them hang up and don't deal with them? and the third is what can we do or should we do to ensure that communities, mparticularly enclaves of seniors perhaps getting the majority of their news and information in a second language like spanish, we're doing enough to inform them about these scams and things that are occurring? >> i think public education is critical. i do think that another issue you might be interested in the future is looking at why people become subject to scams. and, you knows, we talk about people with dementia. but there's an issue around financial capacity at which someone may be able to function very well in their life but their ability to manage finances goes down.
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and we're -- one of the reasons older adults are targeted so often is because they're the ones who are at home when they answer the phone. they might be lonely. these guys, not only do they come up with the latest best scams, but they also know how to engage people and become their friends. so it's very -- i say that because it's very challenging even when we're doing the education to get people to pull back from this. when you talk about the caregivers, the caregivers certainly should be educated about this as well. because they're on the front lines and they will see this happening. i will, though, caution that sometimes we do see caregivers being the exploiters as well. so it's really important for families to be vigilant about this. we certainly also deal with people with limited english as well. one time we did a presentation in chinatown and i think it was simultaneously translated into about eight different languages so that people could get that information.
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so we try to do as much as we can to reach people. and to also train gatekeepers in those communities so that they're -- you know, if it is a spanish-speaking community, we can train people in that community to take that message to individuals, those people who are going into the home, for instance, who are working in the housing sites. we have housing coordinators who are working with people individually. so that's where -- we had a scam by somebody telling them they were the cable company. it happened in housing, senior housing throughout the city. and we were able to, through that -- one of them was at a housing site where most of the people speak spanish. that's where we actually were able to tackle the problem because they got it. >> i know i'm out of time. just a suggestion we may want to talk to the primary spanish languish networks to have that part of their fcc license,
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especially for the programming -- >> we have been able to get those on our local spanish language stations. >> thank you very much, senator rubio. as you were talking, i was >> i know how to do the accents. >> i have no doubt of that. >> i love the idea. that will reach a lot of home bound seniors. so that's something we can look at also. >> thank you mr. ranking member. this is such a vital hearing. i traveled around new york state asking senior centers have you been effected and overwhelmingly
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almost every hand in the room is raised. someone has gotten the irs scam. somebody has gotten the sweepstakes scam. it is heartbreaking. some of these seniors have lost tens of thousands of dollars. there's no protection for them. i have three sets of questions. first, what should we do as the senate committee to -- all of you said yes, there must be publish education. how? what legislation should we write about how to legislate all seniors about these scams. specifically how do we reach all seniors in this country.
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to pay the irs scam and someone sitting outside waiting for her to bring the money. the teller so smartly says you look nervous, are you okay? she is like no. i have the irs on the phone and i have to give it to them right now. she said the irs will never call you. should we not be having conversations directly with any place you can purchase an itunes card, a notice on every crash register, please confirm it's to purchase an itunes card for music and not to give to the irs. why aren't we posting at every bank, every teller shower trained on this. i don't think we are doing enough to prevent these horrible crimes from happening. i heard some are run by the russian mob for god's sake.
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if we knew massive criminal kneltwor networks were -- oh, these seniors are being duped. the money is gone. if we had some huge mob cartel we would have federal action. we would be sending money to address it. i don't feel like we are doing that. the degree is much bigger than we disclosed. we know 40% isn't even reported. it is so embarrassing. she got the irs scam. she sent the money. she never told my mother. she was so embarrassed. we are not even getting the full report. for each of you i would like to know what you recommend to prevent this from warring various parties that are involved in these parties
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unwittingly. i have a senior who went to her bank and took out an advance. you know what the bank is doing to her now? charging her interest because she can't pay the money back and no relief from her bank. this is the problem from each of you. direct recommendations for us. >> you're right on target with what we are try to go ding to d. >> public education is the number one way to combat this. criminals will continue to go for the vulnerable in this case senior citizens as long as they get money. >> specifically what kind of public education and what form? >> we send our special agents out especially at senior centers. we have had very good feedback on those. we think we can penetrate into that segment by participating with members of congress at various town hall events and we would be proud to have a special agent come and speak to this
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very issue. that's one idea i would have. as far as the vendors, right now we are working on a project with walmart do exactly as you described. that is post placards and train their cashiers that there is some sort of dialogue that goes on prior to that purchase. there is a scam going on. are you aware of the scam? are you told these are for taxes in if you have it's a scam. we have been successful with money gram, for example that when individuals go onto the money gram one of the warnings that pops up early is if you've been told to pay your tax with a money gram you're being scammed, please stop the transaction. we have to get the retailers to cooperate. in some cases we have. a recent shift that we have seen is primarily walmart was being
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used as the retailer. our data is telling us within the past month it is now being shifted to target. just yesterday i had my executives reach out to target. but for us as a small agency we think that every person that we protect is a victory. it is something we really enjoy doing. i just want to give you the assurance we are doing a lot behind the scenes. >> thank you. i appreciate the opportunity to address the points you raised. it is very serious. i don't want to have you think in anyway this is not a top
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priority for the federal trade commission. in terms of prevention i would urge each of you, these are tested. we think it is a very effective way to reach seniors where they are and to provide them with the tools they need so they are the ones positioned to assist friends and family members not to be victimized. there is a specific piece on irs and scams.
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that's why the scammers are using those type of payment instruments. that's where we are. we will continue to work with industry members to get better signage and to get other analytical tools in place so they can identify where the bad actors are and how the transfers are going forward. thank you. >> i can't agree more with what you said. i do want to put a plug in for the senior safe act, which is one thing you can do. one of the biggest problems we have had with financial institutions is making these reports. in my written testimony you'll see a story about a lady duked out of $800,000.
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they still are not doing it. i can tell you what happens in some of the cases that work out well is it's the teller who is making the report. they are not necessarily authorized by the guys at the top but the tellers are seeing all of these withdraws taken.
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so it gets to your point of training the people who see it happening, the people who are the tellers at the bank. we have fewer and fewer of those these days and the people who are at the stores. the other thing is that we need to encourage age friendly services in those institutions. we need to have fraud technology. there is a lot of technology out there these days. it was legitimate charges. i said why can't you do that for some of these cases? they won't do it. and so -- but those technologies need to be used for this. they need to come into action. the age friendly services are also important to make sure they have protections like encouraging them to plan for
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incapacity, offering for age friendly account features, offering someone that has someone to your account. but the daughter can get in and look up monitor online and make sure nothing is going wrong. so all of those kinds of things can be done. i hope we can do more to combat this. when you talk about education some times it really is just as easy as putting up a sign so the person managing that cash register sees somebody buying all of these itune cards, that's a flag. i can't imagine why you wouldn't report that. we need to do what you're saying. >> thank you. >> thank you. very excited to be a member of this committee. thank you very much. thank you to all of you for what you do. i was fortunate to be able to work with the ftc this was
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important. i created a unit to address elder abuse and exploitation. we had some great partners. i want to talk on a couple of levels though. the first one is is public education. to me it's the first step in prevention. it is so hard to do. there are many of us try to go get out and talk to folks. it has to be on a constant basis. you can't just say i'm throwing this out there. we'll do it overnight and that's done. the education occurs all of the time. i have been -- i always say this just about to every senator center in nevada to reach out to our seniors. it's reaching out to family,
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reaching out to service providers. for my purposes and this is what i'm going to ask with your help, i had put on conferences in the state of nevada. bringing the experts in to talk about it, how we trained and how we constantly get that information out. it is one thing i would continue down that road. the next one, however, is challenging for me when it comes to law enforcement. this is a question i have for our law enforcement folks. we are also evolving with technology and technological scams. what additional resources or renovations does law enforcement need to keep up with threats posed to seniors? talk also about how we examine also the money transfer systems, which make it much easier for some of these criminal elements
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to engage our senior scammers. >> just a couple of ideas. we look forward to talking to you. maybe it could be considered that on any wire transaction instead of it being rapid and instantaneous -- the ability to convince somebody to put their federal income tax payment that
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is really difficult. as i said in my testimony we estimate through media on our own is a small agency. we believe we had 113 million views we think that it worked but it is very very expensive. it cost apple i believe $140,000. if we could get more of that set up where some of these retailers and companies are required to put aside some money to help educate and continuously educate because it is so difficult to penetrate. i'm not a journalism major but i'm astounded and i take calls myself at my desk.
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just this morning i took a call from a victim. they had no idea there was any such thing as an impersonation scam. it perplexes me. it's like what are other things we can do to try to reach that? >> yeah. and that's why it's constant. the education has to be constant. people are not really listening. let me just say one thing as well. i found this in nevada. part of it too is when they become victims but they are embarrassed to come forward. they are embarrassed to say it happened to them. we have to give them a venue to say it is all right. it is happening across this country to make sure that they are willing to come out and educate themselves and educate others about this type of scam. >> thank you, senator. we have enjoyed the relationship with your former office as well. you mentioned how do we get out into the community? we have held some 33 common
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ground and one was in vegas. there we are working with grass roots members, people from the chamber of commerce, attorney generals office and local law enforcement. discussions vary nationwide. a lot of focus is on issuesfecting seniors in the community. we learn from conferences. we push out consumer education materials. we will continue to do more on that front. money transfer services, well, i would like to sit here and be cautiously optimistic that the settlement will squeeze some of the fraud out of that system. and i think it will. it is very rigorous requirements. it should make a difference. we are squeezing money out of that system it will find another path of less resistance to move to. there is no silver bullet in
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this. education has to compliment law enforcement. that's what we are committed to doing. we certainly look forward to working with each and every one of you to build upon what we have been doing. >> thank you. >> and let me add one final thing. the senior medicare patrol unit is in my office. it is instr -- we were able to uncover fraud. and i can't say enough about the journals, the diaries, he'll care diaries and journals we would hand out to individuals. it matters. really pay attention wleng thhe talk about it and medicaid fraud. it made a difference. so i will continue to support programs and advocacies. thank you for what you do. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you.
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>> sorry if i'm plowing old ground here. could you tell me what innovative programs are already out there that the states have come up with for addressing these senior scams? anybody who wants to start there. >> as far as the states are concerned? >> yes. >> we work with multiple states and law enforcement agencies local and other federal partners. many sl officers that work on that. we had mentioned our pass it on materials. we freely distribute those to the state. we urge everyone to put their own name on it. we have no copyright interest in it.
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we just want to pass on those materials so they can be used. >> and can i just add that one of the tools we have at the state level is the older services which often gets the first report on these cases. we need more resources in that program and we aware that the social services blog grant funding is under -- you know, is under question at this point. that's the money that often supports those programs at the state level. while we need to enhance the funding we need to at least maintain the funding for those programs. they are often the first line. when senator rubio asked who to report to i didn't answer his question. what i meant to say is just
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report it. it doesn't really matter. it will get to the right place eventually. that's what protective services does. it's the first line. it's very helpful to be able to get that person into the system. >> thank you. >> they delivered a package shortly there after. are there any reoccurring services seniors use where companies can include fraud alerts so that they can be delivered? >> yes. we also distribute those to public libraries, senior centers, senior housing. we distribute them to a large number of places where we know people gather, where older people do business. the home delivered meals project is really focused on people we
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won't reach by going to the library or senior center or those kinds of places. it's people who are home bound and wouldn't get that message otherwise. we are trying do that through many different public venues. >> thank you. >> thank you senator. before you were here she talked about the senior safe act in which we reintroduced as casey as our cosponsor. just yesterday aarp endorsed that bill along we have endorsements from legal services for the elderly, national person securities administrators association, the conference on state bank, supervisors, the national association of insurance commissioners and a
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wide variety of regulatory groups. it is that our witnesses were describing. and who can make a real deference in stopping fraud right up front. it will ask unanimous consent that all of those endorsement letters be entered into the record. >> thank you very much for holding this hearing. and i want to just follow up. i think your point about how better to empower people on the front lines is really important. i just want to look at another aspect of that. as we know, the con artists who perpetuate imperson scams, identity theft and exploitation often target seniors. when a senior needs to report they were the victim of fraud it
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is frequently the men and women who work in our government enforcement and consumers protection agencies in washington and in all 50 states who are on the front lines taking their calls and investigating their cases. so it seems pretty obvious to me that one easy way to protect america seniors from fraud is to strengthen that work force. instead of stepping up the work force that cracks down on his first full day in the oval office president trump issued an executive order freezing federal hiring and starving our enforcement agencies of their most important resource, american workers. so you are deputy inspector general for the investigations at the treasury inspector general for tax administration. your job is to protect seniors
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against scammers who pretend that the irs is calling and trying to collect back taxes. almost 2 million people have reported the scam to your office and these scams have cost americans more than $54 million. that's a lot of money. does a hiring freeze help you achieve your goal of protecting seniors from fraud? >> as you point out, senator, these are -- it's a huge issue. every one of these victims is a significant challenge on our resources. so naturally i have been told i'm not allowed to pander for resources at these events. >> but let you know if you crossed the line. >> certainly this stretches our agency very thin. we are seeking under a public safety clause at least for the special agent portion of our work force. >> i appreciate that.
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according to testimony from your office back in 2016 quote reduced staffing has effected the irs's ability to deliver its priority program areas including customer service and enforcement. given that your enforcement team is already understaffed i worry that this kind of hiring freeze is music to criminals ears. now, you also worked with the department of yjustice to help from criminals who are trying to defraud them. will it help you with the doj? >> again, we are only limited, all of us, are only limited by how much resources we have. we are all very passionate about protecting all americans.
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>> but if we don't? >> we have seen this movie before, a 2011 hiring freeze at the social security administration eliminated 15% of the agency's work force and clos closed 64 field offices. you are the executive director at the center of advocacy in philadelphia. can you explain how the 2011 social security personnel freeze effected the seniors that your center works with every day? >> well, certainly it takes a lot longer to make an appointment. >> so increased wait times. >> i can tell you that we are
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interestingly the social security -- i'm in downtown philadelphia and the social security office is in our building. they have the top floor. so that line gets quite long and people are standing there with walkers and canes and waiting to go upstairs. so that's something i see every day. we like to empower people and work with them. some times it's difficult for them to make that call on their own. they will tell us it is 30 minutes to an hour waiting nar call to get through. we had a client that called us who her husband died and she was collecting -- she wanted to switch her social security so she could collect on his account or something like that. what happened was -- you know, i
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think this is shaort staffing. she didn't get a check at all for three months and that meant her medicare part b wasn't being paid so she didn't even have her health care during that time. eventually we were able to help her get that back. it was a very stressful time for her. it probably took more man hours to fix this than it would have taken to help her in the first place. so those are some of the kinds of things we are seeing. i also know that the center on budget and policy priorities put out a report and said that less than 1% of their operating expenses are spent on overhead. i can't run my agency on less -- i wish i could to be honest with you, but i can't. it isn't realistic. how can you continue to provide the level of services to this ageing population to many of us who are ready to, you know, go
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into the social security system to medicare. instead of spending hours ton phone and offices. >> i want to add a couple of statistics and i'll quit. thank you. appeals time also goes up. she is talking about helping people apply. the appeals time got almost 20,000 people died waiting for a disability eligible decision in fy 2016. with all of these negative consequences you would at least hope they save money but it shows they don't save money, that we have a work force that is more stressed, more inefficient. you spend more time try to go fix the problems that are broken because you didn't solve it early on. i appreciate the work you're doing and i hope that we can
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give you better support to do it. thank you. >> thank you. it is intend today provide incite into caregiver programs, those sorts of things during the last two years. we have had discussions about proposals here at the federal level and we talked about potential best practices down in the states. but it doesn't seem to me we have made much progress. can you give me in any of your opinions and the capacity an example of where i should be kinder in my assessment? what kind of progress are we making that you think is really moving the ball substantially in
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the right direction? we want to start with you. >> it is -- one of the biggest challenges i have, senator -- and i have been working with staff here, as we investigate crimes we learn we learn how they doing it. we learn how they are shifting the criminals are watching everything we do from all over the world. they will continue to victimize our most vulnerable citizens. any ideas we have we are happy to meet with staff and talk about this is thousand crime happened, so legislatively what are some of the areas that can be explored? one of the things we are excited about is in our investigation through the help we started working with the federal communications commission. what we learned was they have task forces under the u.s. telecom consortium to block robo
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called -- >> not political ones, right? no. i'm kidding. >> in the robo call area they were able to block about 2 million spoofed calls that could have hit the seniors. how many people would have been victimized by those? the other is there's a trace back task force as well. what it will allow us to do is be able to figure out when bad guys are calling in quickly determine where the call came from and work to try to get them eliminated or taken out of service. >> it's a matter of how do we get to a person where we are scaling some of those things so where we are going from kind of a good proof of concept to a pervasive capability that it could have a significant effect on a lot of nets that are being cast and then capturing seniors and taking advantage of them. i think it's more of a -- we'll get an assessment for why we
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should feel better about things but give me your read down the panel. >> thank you, senator. i appreciate the opportunity to be here again. aggressive continued law enforcement is ongoing and it is making a dent. it may not be a sustained dent but it's not a reason not to do it. i'll point again to the recent western union settlement with relief requiring the company to change how it does business in terms of fraud prevention. the recent crackdown in the u.s. targeting u.s. consumers, those make a difference. we need to figure out how to sustain them and implement them on a more permanent basis. he just referred to some of the work going on with robo calls. we have been at this for years. what has happened is new
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technologies have been developed. they are in the marketplace. one of the first ones was a result of a challenge. these are call blocking technologies that work and then there's a great coordination among industry and government to bring these technologies to the forefront and also to develop caller id authentication. it will provide a significant tool that will pro vent some of these calls from hitting consumers. so i think there's good reason to be optimistic. >> well, i wish i had some of their answers for you, but we are not on that scale. i think on a very large scale in a sense our senior medicare patrol is a good example of this work. it is in every state in this country. i can tell you right now we are working. we had consumers call us about
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something we think is a scam. it's being investigated right now. what we are able to do is get on the phone with people from your state and from i believe -- i think -- i'm not sure if it's maine or not but it's one of the new england states, a number of states with our colleagues who are doing the same work we are doing. we are finding out the same situation is happening in each of those places, which made it a lot easier for us to go to the inspector general with this. it's being investigated now. we think it might be a very large scale issue. that's the way -- but again, it gets back to working in collaboration with other people is so important because we get two calls and we'll say maybe it's a problem, maybe it's not. it sounded fishy so we wanted to look into it further. with those two calls nothing was going to happen. once we get our colleagues from other states identifying these problems as well it makes a case. i think something can happen to
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protect people in the future through that situation. >> thank you. i know that the chair has put together great proposals for programs that have worked their way through congress and authorizing maybe additional initiatives that will be helpful. it points to why we have got to get to appropriations process so we have the financial rer resources behind programs to scale them and get them implemented so we can start measuring what i think are the results that can come about a lot of great ideas, a lot of great proofs of concept, a lot of great law enforcement actions we have got scale and also if we had more time i'm way over now at the end of the day most of what we are talking about here are the cure. we got to work on the prevention side which means we have to continue to focus on education,
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destigmatizing public knowledgement and doing those kinds of things so you early in the cycle of abuse you prevent it from ever happening. thank you. >> thank you very much, senator. law enforcement has started agg aggago gri -- because they are $2,000 here and $3,000 here. when gao came out with 2.9 billion annually i think it happened raise the awareness of the public and need for aggressive enforcement, the cases that were described earlier today.
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i'm actually encouraged we are making progress. these conferrariminals are rele. >> i'm just mad at the people that do this and want them to suffer badly as a result of it as quickly as possible. >> nothing like putting people in jail to be a good deterrent, that's for sure. >> thank you for having this hearing and your very very persistent drive to increase our laws and enforcement of them. i was state attorney general for some 20 years. we established a unit quite a while ago to focus on elder abuse and criminal activity that victimizes them. i agree as well that education is among the best preventive steps. an ounce of prevention is worth
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a pound of cure. it is possible and educating the bad guys is important -- at least as important as educating the good guys. the chair is absolutely right that prison time teaches a very valuable lesson. so with that in mind i introduced a bill called the robert montalva criminal victim abuse prevention and restitution act. it became with bipartisan support the elder abuse prevention and prosecution act which was approved by the judiciary committee. it would improve the current law in a number of ways.
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it's now out of committee. it is on the house floor. we can approve it if we get bipartisan support there and if our distinguished leadership there puts it on the floor i'm sure it will be approved unanimously. it would expand data collection and information sharing to better prevent and respond to elder abuse and exploitation. it would increase training among agencies and it could increase penalties for preerpetrators of these crimes. so it is including mandatory forfeitture to deter future offenses. everybody knows what drives these crimes is money. if you require it it hits them where they live. mandatory forfeitture will
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enable more restitution so that we prevent by deterring but we also make people whole or at least work to make them bhoewho. do you believe that mandatory forfeitture will be effective in deterring future criminal activity? that's the softest ball anybody has thrown to you in quite a while. >> yes. we work really hard and we dedicate resources to investigate these. there's nothing like at the end of the day when my agents can go to court and the perpetrator is picking on our vulnerable citizens gets a csignificant sentence. the more we can recover any moneys that are available the better for us. so we wholeheartedly agree with
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increased deterrence through increased penalties. >> senator, it's a delightful softball. i cannot speak to it. i have to defer to my criminal colleagues. i will say anything that helps us on the civil side would be greatly appreciated. >> thank you. >> i think one of the reasons elderly a targeted is perpetrators feel they are -- and i'm talking more about the exploitation that happens. they think they will get away with it because they do. one of the things we are advocating for is enhanced sentencing for people who commit crimes against the elderly. i think it's very very important because the other issue that we have often with crimes against the elderly is if someone does have demen thtia we are finding
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they are not a good reporter. we have to get past that as well. i can tell you of horrendous crimes. we have got to come up with a system to make sure that's reason for people not to do this, that they are going toob little afraid of taking advantage of the elderly. thank you for that. >> thank you all for your support and thank you for your great work. >> thank you. >> i want to thank all of our witnesses today for your very important contributions, whether it's law enforcement or education or civil actions against those who would rip up some of the most vulnerable citizens in our country, our nation's seniors, as we have heard today and as our committees new frat book makes clear, criminals are relentless
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in their pursuit to swindle seniors out of their hard-earned savings. we see varieties of these scams. once one is closed down another pops up. i too have had those phone calls on my home answering machine in maine and i called the office up immediately because i was so excited. i thought i could help entrap one of these criminals. it turned out that the numbers expire after three days. so by the time i got home for the weekend the numbers were no good. so i was so crushed because i thought i could help bring these people to justice, which is exactly what is the commitment of each and every one of us here. much remains to be done. i'm proud this committee has been just as relentless as the criminals in fighting back
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against this fraud. the important work that all of you are doing really contributes to our efforts. i look forward to continuing to work with our ranking members and with our returning and new members of the committee as we continue this fight in the new congress. committee members will have until friday, february 24th to submit questions for the record. as a reminder, at the risk of sounding like one of those late night infomercials the fraud number is 855-303-9470. the reason i mention that is those 2,300 calls that we got last year enabled us to identify
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new scams so that we could warn people and come up with tips for avoiding people becoming victim. so we have distributed so many copti copies of our fraud book and postcard. i would call on a ranking member if you have any concluding remarks you would like to say. >> thank you. 1-855- -- thank you for that. thank you very much. >> thank you. this concludes our hearing. it is now adjourned. >> all right.
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we'll hear from robert rubin at this event hosted by the bookings institution. that is live 12:30 eastern also here on cspan3. this weekend the c-span's cities tour will exflor literary life of san jose, california. hear about silicon valley, home to many of the largest high-tech organizations. tech business reporter of the mercury news talks about the success and challenges silicon valley has had on the region. >> silicon valley is moving. it is absolutely rampant. that raises the possibility that things will go in the other
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direction as they have in the past. >> then larry talks about his book, no so golden after all. >> if you know everything about california, you know, i studied this state 50 years or more you realize that this state is so top si tur i ha topsy turvy. it can be a boom state and in the hole $30 billion the next. >> on sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv we'll take you to the beginnings of san jose as we visit. >> the public was moved from the original location to this location here in san jose. the what they see behind us is the last remaining structure of that pueblo built in 1797.
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>> then home to one of the largest retrack to telescopes in the world. >> it was really going through a hay day of discovery. this telescope was the largest of its kind in the world in 1888. >> watch c-span's cities tour of than san jose on c-span's book tv and on american history tv on c-span tv. working and visiting cities across the country. who will win student cam's grand prize of $5,000. join us on march 8th for the announcement. this year we asked middle and high school students to produce documentaries telling us what is the most you aurgent issue. we received over 2,900 entries
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from 46 states plus the district of columbia, singapore and taiwan. students competed for chance to win $100,000 in first, second and third place categories. you log onto our web site to view all 150 winning documentaries at be sure to watch the announcement of our 2017 grand prize winner wednesday at 8:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. next, political analysts discuss what donald trump's victory means for potential realignment for republican and democratic parties. speakers include byron york and susan page, washington bureau chief of u.s.a. today. the discussion was part of the annual conservative


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