tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 23, 2015 5:00pm-7:01pm EDT
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>> there's more road to the who's coverage this evening on the c-span networks. donald trump is speaking in florida at the trump national doral miami. a golf resort he owns. that's at 7:00 eastern on c-span . and at k 30 here on c-span, texas senator ted cruz hold as town hall meeting in council bluffs, iowa. >> a house energy and commerce subcommittee held a hearing earlier today on protecting senior citizens from fraud. texas congressman michael burgess chaired the hearing. it's two hours and 15 minutes. mr. burgess: the subcommittee will now come to order. and the chair recognizes himself for five minutes for the purpose of an opening statement. this morning, first let me welcome our witnesses. this morning we will receive an
update on the consumer protection efforts in place to address the fraud risk for america's seniors. as of july, 2013, there are over 44 million americans who are older than 65, that's lmost 14% of the population. the people 65 and older projects to outnumber the people younger than 18. mere 18 years from now. the median income for these households is $35,000 a year. the median net worth of seniors 65 and over is 25 times that of people under 35 years of age. the expanding population of older americans and their wealth compared to other great age groups increases the riss you can that someone will want to target them in scams.
new technologies are everywhere. each week a new smartphone or tablet is announced. new apps with new capabilities keep cropping up. the risk of fraud cannot be underestimated. in the november issue of consumer reports, eight brave seniors came forward to tell their stories about being defrauded. in some cases out of thousands of dollars. sometimes just in a matter of hours. this is all before family or law enforcement could be notified or intervene. while fraud perpetrated by strangers against the elderly is not the only type of abuse against the elderly, it does represent 50% of the reported cases. that is why the hearing today is so important. even where there is no silver bullet, it is critically important for the subcommittee
to understand what government agencies, what the media, what universities and what private groups are doing to empower seniors to protect themselves from fraud and to help them recuperate losses if they are targeted. and we need to figure out how our enforcement agencies can devote more resources to the problem. there are few more important issues had it comes to fraud and consumer protection. the chair now recognizes the subcommittee ranking member for five minutes for an opening statement. ms. schakowsky: thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing on preventing fraud against seniors. i really appreciate the focus on this topic. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses. want to particularly thank a fellow chicagoan, robert harris, for being here. mr. harris is the cook county public guardian and he's leading the fight to protect the elderly against fraud and deception in my hometown.
as a long time consumer advocate and now the co-chair of the congressional task force on seniors for the democratic caucus, i'm committed to ensuring that seniors benefit from strong consumer protections. more now than ever, this subcommittee ought to be helping and we are beginning that process today to ensure that elderly americans are protected against fraudsters. seniors represent the fastest growing segment of our population. since 2002 the number of seniors has grown about 30%. while the population overall just increased 10%. more than one in four seniors who lives alone has difficulty with activities of daily living or some cognitive impairment. according to the f.b.i., seniors generally have higher net worth, a tendency to be trusting, and are less likely to report fraud. all of this makes the elderly prime targets.
we have seen an up tick in the number of products and services that are targeted toward the elderly, including anti-aging products, health-related products, prize promotions and reverse mortgages. i'm incredibly concerned about the risks posed by those products and services. not necessarily that all of them are fraudulent, but that we need to be careful. i want to know what trends our witnesses are seeing, hear their policy and public engagement prescriptions for combating fraud, and learn how we can help you in protecting the elderly. i'd also like to say that if truly gress is committed to rooting out senior fraud, we should start by providing adequate funding to consumer he
financial protection bureau, the federal trade commission, and other agencies responsible for protecting seniors. stopping fraud should not come at the cost of adequately overseeing financial services industries, appropriately monitoring corporate data security and privenesy policies. yet unfortunately the republican budget would eliminate mandatory funding for the consumer financial protection bureau and cut funding for the f.t.c., more than 3% from the previous year. with those entities responsible for protecting more seniors from more threats each year, it's hard to see how those proposals are anything but anti-senior. i hope this hearing is the beginning of a collaborative -- this hearing is the beginning of a collaborative process that will yield realed benefits to senior citizens, our senior population and their families deserve no less. again, i thank the witnesses for appearing today. i thank the chairman for this hearing and i look forward to
gaining from your insights. mr. burgess: does the gentlelady yield back? ms. schakowsky: i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentlelady. the chair asks if there are other members on the republican side who seek time for an opening statement. we will temporarily conclude with members' opening statements there. may be additional members on either side that may arrive at the committee and we would like to give them time because we do know there is another subcommittee hearing going on this morning and people are toggling in between, for the memberses who who are here, the chair reminds members that pursuant to committee rules, all members' opening statements will be made part of the record. to be respective of everyone's it is quiet.
the chair then is pleased to recognize the ranking member of the full committee, mr. pallone, for five minutes for purposes of an opening statement. mr. pallone: you shouldn't wait for me, mr. chairman. mr. burgess: so noted. it will never happen again. [laughter] mr. pallone: seriously, you shouldn't. i want to thank you and the ranking member for holding today's hearing on ways to protect our seniors from fraud. as we've seen far too often each year, fraud affects consumers of all ages and the perpetrators of scams remain highly adept at avoiding the consequences of their criminal acts. seniors, however, are fast growing secretary segment of our population and the threats to their financial security can mean billions of dollars in stolen assets if we let them fall pray to scammers -- prey to scammers. today's seniors are living longer, more active lives and contain wealth.
these are obviously encouraging trends but also represent opportunities for abuse to occur. seniors are inundated with advertisements that promote fraudulent work from home arrangements, computer repair, anti-aging products and many others. they are also targeted disproportionately for certain scams like those involving prize promotions, health-related products and services, and reverse mortgages. in addition, more active lives increasingly means active on the internet where a significant number of scams originate, according to the f.t.c. moreover, certain types of harassment such as being constantly bombarded with telemarketting scams and feeling the need to stop answering the phone can lead to feelings of isolation for our seniors. most troubling, we also are seeing a rise in abuse, particularly financial in nature, committed by those closest to seniors, including family, friends, care givers or other trusted advisors. seniors who are victimized are often hesitant to report them. other mace simply be unaware of
a crime committed against them. a number of federal agencies stand ready to assist state and local services in combating fraud against seniors. the f.t.c. and the consumer financial protection bureau both play a key role in collecting data, educating consumers and take enforcement actions against the perpetrators of financial exploitation. and as often is the case, much of the day to day fighting against fraud is occurring at the state and local levels. i look forward to hearing from those witnesses today about what is working and where we can improve our response to fraud against seniors. our seniors and the savings they have worked so hard to build over the course of their lives are at stake and some seniors have seen their nest eggs wiped away, never to return. we need to ensure that all levels of government are doing what they can and have the tools they need to prevent these devastating scenarios. we owe this commitment to our seniors. i just wanted to say, when i graduated from law school for a couple of years, i was actually -- i worked for an agency in new jersey called protective services for the elderly. and when i was in the state
legislature, we actually put together a bill that governor cain, who is a republican, signed, that basically set up a program protecting the elderly from fraud and abuse. so i'm particularly -- i haven't really been involved as directly since then, that's a long time ago. but it's alwaysing is that i worry a great deal about -- always something that i worry a great deal about and i was involved with on a day to day basis. i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. now we'll turn to our witnesses. we want to thank them for being here with us this morning and taking time to testify before this subcommittee. today's hear willing consist of two panels. each panel of witnesses will have an opportunity to give an opening statement, followed by a round of questions from members. once we conclude with questions of the first panel, we will take a brief recess to set up for the second panel. our first reasons panel for today's hearing including mr. daniel coffman, deputy director
of the bureau of consumer protection at federal trade commission, ms. cannon, deputy director of the office of financial protection for older americans at the consumer financial protection bureau, and mr. robert f. harris, public guardian of cook county, illinois. we appreciate all of you being here today and we will begin the panel with you, mr. kaufman. you're recognized for five minutes for an opening statement, please. mr. kaufman: thank you. ood morning. i'm delighted to appear before you to provide an overview of the fraud threats to older americans and the f.t.c.'s actions to address them. combating fraud is a critical component of the f.t.c.'s consumer protection mission and virtually every law enforcement case that we bring affects older americans. we have adopted a multifaceted approach in our battle against fraud that targets older
consumers or injures them more than others and that includes aggressive law enforcement policy initiatives and consumer education and outreach. to address such fraud effectively, the f.t.c. monitors fraud trends by examining data gathered from consumer complaints and surveys and collaborating with others in law enforcement, industry, academia, and legal services. through our extensive law enforcement experience and efforts to track frad fraud trends, we have identified practices affecting seniors in several discrete areas. and our consumer complaint data shows that for 2015, older americans complained primarily about government and business imposter scams, telemarketting, technical support scams and sweepstakes and lottery scams. while our consumer survey shows that older americans are not necessarily more likely to be defrauded than younger consumers, the f.t.c. has nevertheless focused on scams
involving seniors. for example, in recent years we have concentrated our law enforcement efforts on technical support and health care-related scams. fraudsters frequently claim affiliation with well known businesses or government agencies to build trust with consumers. and often use row bow calls and -- robo calls and spoof caller i.d.'s to reach as many people as possible. in the last year the f.t.c. has filed three cases against defendants engaged in technical support scams, where con artists trick consumers in purchasing technical support services and products reportedly to fix problems on their computers. in fact, the computer problems are nonexistent and the defendants have caused millions of dollars in injury to older consumers. the f.t.c.'s actions are crucial in halting these practices. similarly, the f.t.c. has filed multiple cases against fraudsters that have used deceptive practices to sell health care-related products and services to older americans. such as medical alert systems,
pharmaceutical benefits and fake information regarding medicare benefits. in all of these cases, the fraudsters pretended an affiliation with a consumer's friend or family member or with a well-known bank or government agency in order to gain consumers' trust. our law enforcement efforts have banned defendants from telemarketting, making robo calls, selling health care-related products or deputying bank accounts and we have recovered money for consumers. we have also sued money transfer services that are commonly used in scams that target older americans. and our coordination with state, federal and international partners is as strong as ever. indeed, some of the individuals sued by the f.t.c. for frauding elderly consumers have been prosecuted criminally. finally, consumer education and outreach are indispensable. in 2014 we launched an innovative and successful education effort called pass it on that is aimed at older,
active consumers. pass it on arms seniors with important information regarding topics such as imposter and health care scams, charity fraud and identity theft that they can pass on to family and friends who might need it. the f.t.c. has an ongoing and sustained commitment to protecting older americans by pursuing robust law enforcement, important policy work and innovative consumer education and outreach. i look forward to any questions you may have. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. ms. cannon, you're recognized for five minutes for an opening statement, please. would you please check to see if your microphone is on. ms. cannon: can you hear me now? great. thank you. thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today about the devastating problem of elder financial exploitation. ms. kanan: i am the deputy assistant director -- ms.
canan: i am the deputy assistant director. our office is dedicated to providing older consumers with the tools they need to protect themselves from financial abuse and to make sound financial decisions. in 2011 the cumulative net worth of consumers aged 65 and older was approximately $17.2 trillion. older adults are victimized by a range of perpetrators, including scam artists, family members, caregivers, financial advisors, home repair contractors and even court appointed guardians. a national study found an estimated 5.2% of americans 60 and older are exploited by a family member. other studies show that most incidents of financial abuse go unreported and under the radar. once the fraud occur, of
course, older americans have little time and few resources to recoup lost savings. to address these serious challenges, we recognize that collaboration is critical. among other things, the bureau participates, along with 11 other federal agencies, in the elder justice coordinating council. the council fosters coordination of federal agencies. for example, many of our initiatives support council recommendations and this year the cfpb and the s.e.c. jointly issued a consumer advisory on planning for diminished capacity and illness. the bureau also works in education initiatives with nonprofits, community organizations and industry groups. such as the financial services round table and meals on wheels america. i'd like to tell you about a few of our initiatives to combat elder financial exploitation. one is the money smart for older adults program. which we developed jointly with the fdic. money smart is a trainer
curriculum that teaches consumers and their caregivers about different types of fraud, scams, exploitation and provides warning signs and tips. it's used by a broad rake of -- range of intermediaries including state and local governments and nonprofit and financial institutions. on october, 2013, we released managing someone else's money guides. they assist people who are managing the finances for a family member or a friend who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. many older americans experience declining capacity to handle finances, which make them very vulnerable to fraudsters. 22% of americans over age 70 have mild cognitive impairment. even mild cognitive impairment can reduce an older person's ability to detect de-effect fraud or a scam, -- detect fraud or scam, thereby necessitating a surrogate to take care of their money. the guides explain the responsibilities and how to
spot scams and exploitation. and 3 the cfbb -- cfpb other agencies released interagency guidance to provide financial institutions with reporting suspected financial exploitation. the guidance encourages timely reporting to law enforcement, adult protective services and other federal and state and local agencies. the bureau also has additional resources that help protect older americans against fraud. ask cfpb is an interactive online tool that helps consumers find clear, unbiased answers to their financial questions. it has served more than eight million visitors since march, 2012. we also accept consumer complaints by phone, mail, fax and through our website. as of september 30, 2015, the bureau handled over 726,000 complaints of which approximately 63,000 were submitted by or on behalf of a
consumer 62 years and older. congressional leadership and support is critical to implementing the multifaceted solution to the serious problem of elder financial exploitation. we therefore commend this subcommittee for holding this hearing and look forward to continued information sharing with interested parties and stakeholders. thank you very much. mr. burgess: thank you. mr. harris. r. harris: good morning. my name is robert harris and i'm a lawyer and i am the cook county public guardian in chicago. i was appointed in 2004 by the chief judge of the circuit court of cook county to act as the guardian for people with alzheimer's and dementia. i'm here today to discuss the issue confronting hundreds of my people under my guardianship
who have severe forms of dementia and alzheimer's around have been financially exploited -- and alzheimer's and have been financially exploited. my office serves approximately 600 people right now as the guardian of last resort for people without family or others to care for them. the average age is 72. the oldest is 103. and around 70 of them are over 90 years old. our goal is to maintain them in their own homes or in a community setting and for approximately 1/3 of those people, we are able to do so with their own assets. at this point, most of them have bought homes, saved money for their golden years. unfortunately there are people who view them as potential victims. and the problem is so widespread that at least 1/3 of our intake cases have some form of financial exploitation. it doesn't matter if they have largessetates worth over $1 million or if they simply have a house that's worth $25,000. another unfortunate fact is the
exploiters can be anyone. family members, agents acting under the power of attorney, bank tellers, attorneys, clergy, caregivers, long time friends, we've had cases involving police officers and strangers and others who either have or obtain a position of trust for the elderly victims. to combat and recover assets stolen from the people we serve, we do several things. we work with law enforcement, adult protective service agencies and fraud detection departments and financial institutions. we work with the media to shed light on the problem within the public and we speak at various community organizations to educate their constituents about the problem. one of our strongest and chief stools -- tools that we use is the development of a financial recovery unit that we call fru -- f.r.u. we have three full-time attorneys two w.h.o. file
citation actions -- who file citation actions to recover stolen, converted, embezzled or concealed assets. over the past 10 years that we have worked on this particular issue, the unit has recovered almost $50 million in money, houses and other properties for the people under my guardianship, to be able to use for their care, to maintain them in the community. the types of scams we see include executing fraudulent deeds, undulyy influencing the elderly individual to sign over their property or using a power of attorney to empty their bank accounts. the almost $50 million that we've recovered for people under my guardianship is just the tip of the iceberg. and i'm sure that it is only a tiny fraction of the money that individuals have been exploited of in and around chicago. some of our suggested solutions are to help local governments establish offices such as mine
or legal clinics to establish practices that help people who have been exploited. whether they come into the court system or whether they simply need help and aren't involved in the probate court case. educating seniors and the public regarding the dangers of financial exploitation through community organizations and places of worship and community centers, and resource resources that might be available to them -- resources that might be available to them, to utilize organizations like the national guardianship association, to play an important role by promoting standards of best practices for guardians and probate courts, by providing education and training and provide advocacy on the issue and the impact seniors, -- that impact seniors, including elder abuse and financial exploitation. develop court systems and processes that don't work against seniors and consider the urgency of time for the elderly. such as the probate and the elder law and miscellaneous remedies courts in chicago.
because many exploiters simply try to wait out the life span of those -- of the elderly victims. you have the written materials that i've submitted that are premised largely on an article that my deputy public guardian, charles goldberg, wrote for. and i'd be happy to share our experiences with individual cases. mr. burgess: the gentleman yields back. the chair thanks the gentleman and thanks all of our witnesses for your testimony and we'll move into our question portion of the hearing. i'll begin the questioning by recognizing myself for five minutes. i just have to ask you, i learned so much in this subcommittee, fraudulent deed, what happens with that? someone comes door to door and says, i'll sell you some property? mr. harris: no, what they do sometimes is they do quick claim deeds from the person,
the elderly person. they forge those deeds right, write their own names in or deed it to a third party. and then they record it against the property. and sometimes those elderly people never know about the crime. and then one day someone shows up and they no longer own their homes. mr. burgess: someone has purchased the home? mr. harris: sometimes they -- actually they have not purchased the home. they've just developed a deed. and recorded it against their property. mr. burgess: and you're able to intervene on behalf of that person? mr. harris: oh, yeah. what happens is if a case is referred to our office and the person qualifies, first of all, they'd have to have a cognitive impairment that is severe enough to qualify for our services. we would filing is like a citation action, to recover that property -- file something like a citation action, to recover the property that's been wrongfully taken from them. mr. burgess: are there other people in your county, who if someone wasn't suffering from a cognitive impairment, where
that could be remedied? mr. harris: yes, there's a legal assistance foundation that we have in chicago that also has a fraud department and there are a couple of attorneys that work on cases for people who don't have guardians. sometimes they refer to us if there's a need for a guardian but often they just have people that walk in. the office is very small. one of the biggest issues i think that we are confronted with, not just on the deed, the fraudulent deed cases, but some of our -- the people that we work with, make the worst witnesses. because of their cognitive impairment. whether this is severe or not. nd so we need -- they need more help. sometimes these are very intensive, document-intensive, financial-intensive cases that require a lot of work and detail. mr. burgess: thank you. mr. kaufman, thank you for being here this morning. certainly i want to thank the
f.t.c. for always being willing to come and talk to our subcommittee, and having us over to your offices earlier in the year and having me to your regional offices down in dallas. that was all very helpful. i learned about a number of resources that are available. let me just ask you a question about your involvement, when you have a foreign agency involved, a telemarketer scheme, something called the jamaican lottery. i'm not sure i know what it is. but what enforcement tools do you have to be able to put a stop to these practices and what you have learned about multijurisdictional enforcement? mr. kaufman: thank you for the question. multijurisdictional enforcement is challenging. there are impediments when fraud is emanating from overseas to the united states. the tools that this committee's given us, the u.s. safe web act have provided assistance. but we've also worked closely and built stronger relationships with law enforcement authorities in
other countries. in canada, in the united kingdom. if we talk about jamaica, we've seen a lot of prize and lottery scams in particular emanating from jamaica and we have a specific group who are involved in called jolt which is a number of law enforcement agencies in the united states and jamaican authorities, to help assist the jamaicans in prosecuting these kind of cases there as well as prosecuting cases in the united states. but there are challenges with these issues. mr. burgess: let me ask you and ms. canan, what do you have at your disposal for spotting trends? so that you might anticipate ifing is is happening -- if something is happening in one location, that it might me taft size or migrate to another location, are there tools that you have where you can keep track of things that are popping up on the radar screen? mr. kaufman: absolutely. our primary tool, i would say, is our consumer sentinel data base.
get complaints from many consumers. we also get complaints from many other law enforcement agencies and entities such as the better business bureau and we routinely track, analyze and look for trends and look for increasing speak -- spikes in order to find targets to pursue. ms. canan: i mentioned in my testimony that we have a consumer response department where we accept complaints from consumers and our office, the office for older americans,, we look at complaints that are submitted on behalf of older consumers routinely and look for trends and spikes as well. some of the, you know, the information that we cull from the complaints, if appropriate we send it to our enforcement division. we also will develop education materials depending on what we find. mr. burgess: what part of the purpose of having this hearing, of course, is the ex posstory nature of the services that you all have. i will tell you, as a regular
guy, when i was caring for my parents as they aged i had no idea about the types of services that were available. nor would i have been completely cognizant of the risks that were out there. and looking back on 10, 15 years ago, i realize there were robably some near misses and what i really hope this subcommittee hearing does today is make people, number one, aware of the problem, and number two, aware of where they can go for help if they think they've been victimized. i yield now to the gentlelady from illinois, the ranking member of the subcommittee. ms. schakowsky: thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate your last comment. hopefully we really can work together to drill down on this. i wanted to ask mr. harris a question. you said that you represent -- you are guardian for 600 people. how do those people get to you? how does that happen? mr. harris: we often have referrals from judges, a senior will come into a housing court have an issue, and we'll be
called by a judge. law enforcement, we've had referle -- referrals from banking institutions as well. neighbors. all sorts of people. ms. schakowsky: so, would you estimate that there are a lot of people out there who do not have the benefit of your guardianship? mr. harris: yes. i do. a lot of people who either are fearful, and there's a lot of people out there who are fearful to call our office because they believe that the government stepping is is going to be a bad thing for them. i think that if there's an appropriate person out there, friend, family member, that can help them, i think that's the preferable -- always the preferable way to go. but i think we do offer some services that specifically are -- specifically our f.r.u., -- f.r.u. unit, that's able to help people that's unlike any other organization in our city or state. ms. schakowsky: you said 1/3 of
the people, so that would be 200 of those, are victims of some form of exploitation, financial exploitation. did you say by families? mr. harris: by family members. but often it's a lot of other people. a lot of strangers that do it. but there's a lot of people that hold great positions of trust that end up doing it. unfortunately it can be a family member. ms. schakowsky: i am wondering if you could describe some of the types of financial exploitation that seniors under your care have experienced. mr. harris: sure. i remember a young lady -- young lady to me, she's older. but she's still young in spirit. who was exploited by a woman who styled herself as her personal banker. she'd go to the same bank downtown chicago, large banking institution, for years. she worked for what used to be a company that produced books and other things in the city. and she and her husband had
amassed a small amount of money. about $300,000. this person, she befriended her, would sit down with her every time she came into the bank, she started to rely on her to write checks for her bills and she ended up taking about $300,000 from her. the bank called us and we ultimately, after a little contentiousness, we ultimately were able to recover the money from her. but we've also had people who have been exploited, who have gone to the hospital, elderly gentleman, 90 years old, who had gone to the hospital, met a c.n.a. at the hospital, who ended up volunteering to become his caregiver, who then stole about $500,000 from him. those are just some of the cases. we've had all kinds of cases similar to that. ms. schakowsky: you know, some of these are so personal. i think -- i don't no of all of you, but i think you also said a lot of people don't report
it. and i would think when families are involved, that it becomes even more difficult. how can we, maybe this is for ll of you, encourage people to protect themselves, to actually report when family or a former trusted friend has clearly exploited them? any -- how do we breakthrough that? mr. kaufman: sure. there's a couple of things. first, we'd love to have the committee members providing information on their websites and to their constituents about the resources that we provide. it's very important to help us get the word out and we'd like the committee to assist us. for us our campaign pass it on is premised on the notion that it's senior citizens helping other senior citizens in spreading the word out and not being ashamed to talk about frauds that have happened and to protect each other, so that's been the focus of our consumer education, sort of breaking that barrier.
and getting seniors to talk about it with each other. ms. schakowsky: let me ask you, did you having is? ms. canan: i was just going to say -- have something? ms. canan: i was just going to say, we're out and about in encouraging the report of abuse. it'sing is that almost need as mass media -- it is something that almost need as mass media attention too. we have the the trainer program and smart money for adults. we're out with sbeer immediate years training people constantly about how to spot and intervene and report when fraud is observed. ms. schakowsky: do you partner with senior citizen organizations like aarp? ms. canan: yes. we're a very small office. with 57 million constituents, so the only way that we can effectively do our job is if we connect with a service provider , state, local government entities, other federal partners in order to, you know, with organizations that are on
the ground, providing services to seniors, and many of them have -- will engage in the money smart training for their clientele. ms. schakowsky: i wonder, mr. harris, does the state attorney general have any role in helping your office with financial exploitation? mr. harris: yes. in terms of some of the bigger cases, people who do systemic exploitive things, they do get involved, file lawsuits, as does the u.s. attorney's office as well. i have to say that to me one of the biggest tools that we can use is to get to the smaller community groups. to go to churches, to go to synagogues, to other places. we work with a small agency on the west side of chicago called south austin coalition. and they are, you know, they know the people, they bring folks like myself and these two
people here from their organizations to come and talk to the very smaller groups -- various smaller groups. i've generated certain cases where we've been able to help people from those groups. because i'm not sure how much some of the folks on the west side, the south side and some of the north sides of chicago are looking at, like, bigger media attention on something like that, or reading some of the bro chures that are really geared toward helping the seniors. as simple as you can get it and as grassroots as you can get it, i think that's probably the most effective tool that i've seen help. ms. schakowsky: let me just say, i would really like to meet further with all of you and talk about ways that we can partner on this. and i look forward to the committee following up on this. thank you. i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentlelady. the gentlelady yields back. the chair recognizes mr. lance from new jersey, five minutes, for your questions, please. mr. lance: thank you, mr.
chairman. my thanks to the distinguished panel for being here. i hear from constituents all the time about being bombarded with robo calls from scammers who have spoofed their phone numbers to look like a local call or like a state or federal agency. in order to scam them out of personal and financial information. indeed yesterday my wife received such a call in new jersey. someone claiming that we were in arears with the internal revenue service. and she chose quite appropriately not to return the telephone call. she telephoned me and our office looked into the telephone number and it was someone who was scamming constituents. i would imagine across the country. i've introduced a bill with grace meng of new york citi, from the great borrow of queens, a democrat, and chairman emeritus barton of this committee called the
anti-spoofing act of 2015 and i would encourage colleagues to examine that bill. and it would target caller i.d. spoofing and specifically expand protections of the communications act of 1934 to include spoofed text messages and voice-over i.p. calls. mr. kaufman, the f.t.c. runs a do-not call list. would you please explain in detail what my constituents and others who are on the list should do if they believe they are being called by scammers or organizations in violation of f.t.c. protection. mr. kaufman: thank you for the question. robo cause are a huge challenge -- calls are a huge challenge. the first piece of advice, hang up. don't provide any information. just hang up. mr. lance: i hope those who are viewing this hearing will take that to heart. do not respond to such a call. mr. kaufman: the technology issues are challenging. it's become very inexpensive to
blast millions upon millions of phone calls. we're bringing law enforcement actions, but the cases are challenging. the caller i.d.'s are spoofed. it makes finding the perpetrators pretty challenging. one thing we have done at the f.t.c. that is pretty innovative is we've issued a number of different public challenges to get people in the technology community interested in the issue of robo calls in helping to figure out ways to block calls. we've had four separate events that have been successful and it'sing is we're continuing to pursue -- it's something we're continuing to pursue. we also, again, hang up on the calls. get yourself on the do-not call list and we work hard in this area. mr. lance: thank you. in one of the counties i represent in new jersey, residents were being telephoned by those who claimed to be from the county sheriff's office. this is clearly inaccurate. fraudulent. and the sheriff of that county, sheriff of somerset county, new jersey, has taken appropriate
action. this happens quite frequently. how do the f.t.c. and s.e.c. coordinate to combat these scans? mr. kaufman: we coordinate quite well with them. we have frequent phone calls, with we are careful we're not overlapping in terms of the law enforcement actions and we try to harmanize our processes and our implementation as well as we can. mr. lance: thank you. i'm interested in your office, mr. harris, i do not know much about it. as i understand it you're appointed by the chief judge of the kir sit court of cook county. is that accurate? and is that true in all of the counties in illinois or only in cook county with several million people? mr. harris: actually, there's only in cook county that there's a public guardian like myself. the other public guardians are appointed by the governor. mr. lance: in the various counties or are there jurisdictions? mr. harris: it's in the various counties. which becomes a problem sometimes in down state because some of the counties are so small. mr. lance: yes. then do you report to the
circuit court of cook county? how does that work? mr. harris: yes. i act under the auspices, uble i'm an appointed -- obviously i'm an appointed person in each one of mices. we have to report to the court on -- of my cases. we have to report to the court on an on a all basis. we time inventories and a yearly accountable and -- yearly accounting and goings-on , it's kind of a social on what we've done. we also file a yearly annual report with the cook county commissioners. mr. lance: thank you. good luck with your continued work. it's certainly a matter of strong public policy as well as the other member of the panel. i yield -- members of the panel. i yield back the balance of my time. mr. burgess: the chair recognizes the gentleman from new jersey, the other gentleman from new jersey, mr. pallone, five minutes, for your questions, please. mr. pallone: thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to ask mr. kaufman, a variety of consumer scams emerged during tax filing
season. one of which is a phone call from a person who falsely claims to represent the irls. i think that's -- the i.r.s. mr. lance: would the ranking member yield for a moment? this happened to me personally. my wife personally yesterday. yesterday. mr. pallone: i thought you were saying that when i walked in. but i wasn't sure. thanks. so, you know this person threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or suspension of a license if an amount of money is not paid immediately and these scammers are very aggressive and may use personal information about the victim to seem legitimate. it definitely has affected many constituents of in my district. i'm not making this up. people have, including seniors, one of whom was recently threatened with a home foreclosure if they didn't pay a specified amount. so i just want to -- i'd like my constituents to be prepared when they receive a phone call from an i.r.s. imposter. can you confirm that an actual i.r.s. agent would never call to demand immediate payment, ask for credit or debit card
numbers over the phone, or threaten arrests for not paying? mr. kaufman: yes, i can absolutely confirm that. those are imposter scams and consumers should hang up and not provide any information. mr. pallone: i appreciate. that i'm probably going to repeat what you just said just so we don't -- so people understand that in my district. i wanted to ask also about reporting incidents of elderly fraud. many consider financial exploitation to be a silent crime because victims are often too shamed or embarrassed to report what has happened. additionally, it can be challenging for many seniors to serve as a criminal witness and law enforcement officials regularly identify lack of reporting and the difficulty obtaining relevant data as challenges to both identity and to combat elder financial exploitation. so can you explain the role the consumer sentinel network about a d.a. at that base plays in combating -- data base plays in combating this challenge? and what steps need to be taken
to increase both the use of the database and reporting of senior financial exploitation in general. mr. kaufman: it's an important tool for law enforcement agencies and we continue to develop it and improve it. we have some enhancements in the works right now. but it really is a tool for law enforcement agencies throughout the country to have access to millions of consumer complaints. and to look for trends and to look for specific areas that might be interest -- they might be interested in. many of ourcations have original natesed from complaints we've received and. -- received. mr. pallone: can you give us an update on the consumer complaint database at the cfpb? how many complaints do you receive, what types of fraud are you seeing and how is this information -- has this information been useful to you n developing policy proposals? ms. canan: i will say that we know that there have been in excess of 63,000 complaints that have been submitted by
we umers 62 and older since began accepting complaints. what we do is we cull through them, we 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 who are having difficulties with their mortgages and with debt collection. so these are the two largest areas that older consumers are complaining about. which by the way is not unlike their younger counterparts. there's often a misconception that older consumers are not engaged fully in the marketplace, that simply is not true and that's borne out by the complaints that we see. our consumer response section for complaints, of course, is focused on consumer products and services. which is what the bureau focuses on. however, consumers also add narratives into their complaints and we have the
opportunity to find instances of financial exploitation, of stories that are related to that in the complaints as well. mr. pallone: thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the gentleman yields back. the chair recognizes the gentleman from mississippi, mr. harper, five minutes, for questions please. mr. harper: thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to each of you for -- for being here and we certainly is a lot of issues that need to be discussed. i know this will come as a surprise, but we do some bipartisan work on occasion. so i along with representative castor have introduced legislation in july, h.r. 3099, the raise family caregivers act, which would implement the bipartisan recommendation of the federal commission on long term care that congress require the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers. similar in scope to the national strategy developed to
address alzheimer's disease. the bipartisan legislation would require the development, maintenance and updating of a an integrated national strath strategy to recognize and support family caregivers. i think this is an underreported issue, unless you're living in the middle of it, a lot of people don't understand what is going through -- my mother's almost 92. we're going through issues with sitters and ourselves, trying to take care of her and deal with those issues. and it's a difficult problem for a lot of families. and we deal with constant, and i can just tell from personal experience for a number of years we had phone calls, you know, credit card offers, switch your credit card over here, do this, change your phone service to the cable and then you don't like that, you can change back and we lose your phone number.
we finally were able to get to the point, and hopefully this will bing is to help families that are doing -- will be something to help families that are doing this, to tell that person to say, i won't do anything until you talk to so and so, my son, my daughter, my trusted family member. a and those things, you know, sometimes will help. but this is a question for mr. kaufman and ms. c anan as well. i'm interested in whether your agencies have focused on the caregivers' role in protecting the elderly from fraud and do you have a -- you mentioned some, but do you have particular educational materials or guides for these caregivers and others in a fiduciary position to seniors, and how are lawyers and financial institutions dealing with the risk of fraud against their elderly clients? mr. kaufman: sure. at the f.t.c. we have a wide range of consumer materials available. we have materials that are focused specifically on seniors, our pass it on
campaign has been highly effective for seniors. but i think the cfpb has more materials on specifically caregivers and financial institutions of that nature. i think i might defer to my colleague here. ms. canan: thank you. i'm actually very happy to have this opportunity to tell but run with of our very popular -- one of our very popular publications which we call managing someone else's money. these are how to-how-to user friendsly guides for nonprofessionalify -- ears -- fiduciaries. people who are taking care of the financial matters for a family member or friends. it includes information that helps the fiduciary know what his or her responsibilities and duties are, so, in other words, if you're caring for -- if you're caring for someone and you have access to their money, it's not ok to buy a car with
those funds. simple things like that. which should be known. but unfortunately sometimes there is some confusion. in addition, in these guides we include information about how to spot scams and frauds and what you can do to protect the person who you're caring for as a financial care giver. we have these national guides we're just on the process of ruling out state-specific guides including a template which would allow states to do their own as well. mr. harper: you mentioned you had 63,000 complainlts, involving people 62 years of age and older. you related mortgage-related, -- you mentioned mortgage-related, debt collection. we have the federal fair debt collection practices act that deals a lot of that. of that 63,000, you're not saying that all 63,000 were fraud, you're just saying those were complaints that were registered, correct? ms. canan: correct. that's correct. mr. harper: if in the time that
i have for both you, mr. kaufman and ms. canan as well, i'm certainly very interested in the cross-agency initiatives that protect seniors from aud, abuse and neglect and ex employ tade. -- exploitation. would you both quickly discuss your work with the elder justice coordinating council, housed at the department of health and human services, whether the council's efforts have been constructive toward your agency's efforts and what could be improved. if i may be allowed to continue, mr. chairman. to an answer on that? mr. burgess: proceed. mr. harper: thank you. mr. kaufman: we are members of the council. we have participated in a number of events. we've partnered with organizations throughout the country. senior organizations. we found it to be an effective tool for sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. and i don't -- i can't think of any improvement at the moment. ms. canan: yes. we're one of the 11 federal agencies. we've been very active in participating in the elder justice coordinating council.
we too find it very helpful for coordinating our actions. each agency brings to the table different expertise and different jurisdictions. it's clearly a situation where we need all hands on deck and our work often will compliment those of our sister agencies. mr. harper: thank you very much. i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the gentleman yields back the balance of his time. the chair recognizes the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. kennedy, five minutes, for questions, please. mr. kennedy: thank you, mr. hairman. appreciate it. always a pleasure to hear you get massachusetts out of the -- as many as often as we possibly can from our friend from texas. thank you investment to the distinguished panel, thank you very much for being here. i wanted to focus on an aspect of medicare if we can. the open enrollment period started on october 15 and runs through december 7. for the nation's 54 million medicare beneficiaries, this is an important time to consider changes to their health and drug plans. however, medicare beneficiaries should be vigilant as this period also represents an opportunity for fraud. according to a recent article by u.s. news and world report,
a common request from medicare scams is that a victim reveal their medicare. in it is important that our seniors know how easily it is to spot these open enrollment scams. so, i'd like to start with you. i understand that the f.t.c. won a victory in federal court last october after filing a complaint against a telemarketting scheme that was designed to trick and did trick seniors by pretending to be part of medicare. could you describe the specifics of that case and why that victory's so important for consumers? mr. kaufman: thank you for acknowledging this case. it's a very important case. the entity was called sun bright. telemarketters were claiming to be affiliated with medicare. they falsely promised new cards for consumers and required people to provide their bank account numbers. they of course used those bank account numbers to withdraw several hundred dollars from the consumers they contacted. it's very consistent with cases we've seen repeatedly where they're misrepresenting affiliations with government entities or other entities in order to scam consumers out of
their personal information and then out of their financial benefits. mr. kennedy: how does the f.t.c. coordinate with c.m.s. to prevent this fraud? mr. kaufman: we do work with them, we talk to them. we also issue alerts. when there are changes in health benefits that are publicly available, we know the frauds will follow. that's one thing we've always seen at the f.t.c. when there's a new program, a new scare, frauds will also follow from it. so we will always issue alerts and scam alerts and talk about it. mr. kennedy: just so everyone is clear. is it true that medicare will never call or email seniors for -- with products to offer or for requests for their medicare number? mr. kaufman: that is correct and they will not ask for your bank account information in particular. mr. kennedy: and insurance agents are not allowed to visit your home to sell or endorse any medicare products, is that right? mr. kaufman: that is my understanding. but i would have to verify that and get back to you if that's ok. mr. kennedy: my understanding as well. thank you. what should consumers do if they or someone they know has
receive one of these fake medicare solicitations? mr. kaufman: hopefully they've not provided their information. if they have, they should contact their bank immediately and try to rectify the situation. they should also file a complaint with the f.t.c. at ftc.gov/complaint. mr. kennedy: thank you very much. any of the other witnesses have anything to add? with that i yield back. yeah, absolutely. ms. schakowsky: 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 the medicare card? so it's in the wallets of everybody who is over 65. and we're told that it would be very cumbersome and costly to change that. but is that a bad idea?
either one of you can answer. it's right there. that's the number. when we talk about medicare number, it's a social security number. mr. burgess: will the gentlelady yield on that point? i'm not sure about this, so i do have to -- i will look into it for you, but i believe in the medicare reform, that we passed in march passed in march or april of this year, the removal of the social security number was part of a bill passed earlier this year. the bill that repealed the sustainable growth rate formula. but i will find out about that. because this was a weakness inherent to the system. mr. kaufman: i agree spst important that social security numbers not be shared or readily accessible or publicly displayed. but we'll be glad to talk to you more about this issue. ms. schakowsky: maybe we did fix it. that's good. mr. burgess: every now and then e fix somethingful the chair
yields to the gentleman, mr. mullin, for phi minutes. mr. mullin: i can't tell you .hat a medicare card looks like anyway, thanks for being here. about a week ago we started getting people calling us saying they'd received a call from our office. pretending to be from our office to get personal information. their worries me because automatic trust we have built with our constituents is getting phone calls from people that supposedly being from our office. in business wene use a rule that you only receive about 1% of your actual complaints. and i would wonder if that were true if i'm only receiving about 1% of those that are receiving those calls. now, is there an enforcement
that can -- do we lack enforce? -- enforcement? do we lack the ability to go individuals even if we get their information? what is the penalty for doing this? mr. kauffman, ms. canan, can one of you talk about that? mr. kaufman: we have seen a rise in impostor scams. i've seen a rise in calls to my office from people who have contacted by me, who have not been contacted by me. we are bringing actions when we find perpetrators. we are a civil law enforcement agency, we can only bring civil actions. criminal law enforcement is looking at it as well. consumer session important. mr. mullin: i'll use my grandchildren, for example. they're not -- they're checked out. i'm not saying that in a bad way. my grandpa is 94 years old. grandma is, i think, 89. they're not reading these manuals that come out. they're not getting online.
they're not reading this stuff. we're talking about the most vulnerable, the ones that didn't grow up with computers. ones that have a cell phone but the numbers are this big on it. information is for younger generations. not these other generations. mr. kaufman: i encourage you to take a look at our "pass it on" bro bro -- brochure, it's about page long it describes what he schemes are, we talked to seniors to develop a way to educate them. mr. mullin: i get that, but is there an enforcement problem? how can we help you on the enforcement side of it. there has bton someone knowing if you do this, you'll get caught. mr. kaufman: we continue to bring cases. we're getting more and more law
enforcement agencies interested. the f.t.c. working with other law enforcement agency it's a it's a problem. mr. mullin: i believe you guys have recovered roughly $50 million in stolen assets? what are your best tools. maybe we can work together here because if they're able to recover that out of one county, 'm just floored. -- think, you know, we mr. harris: i think, you know, we are able to get the money back because people need it. criminal enforcement is important. when i first became public forwardian several years ago, there were fewer cases being brought because of problems with witnesses and recordkeeping. but since then, it's increased, the amount of litigation. both from the state attorneys'
office as well as the u.s. attorneys' office. mr. mullin: mr. harris, what i'm trying to get to, what are the most effective tools you're using? to make that happen in one county? mr. harris: we work with a probate act called the citation section in which we recover property that was been embezzled, stolen, concealed from morgues. so it's lawyers doing our work and doing our job. r. mullin: how do you find the people? mr. harris: we get referrals from banks, from neighbors, from hospitals, from churches. once we have an intake and if they qualify those are cases we go after. mr. mullin: you have to just spend the time. you've got to have the resources and spend the time to go after them. mr. maris: that's true. when i first became public guardian we had one person working on it. buzz of growth in this area, we
added more resources and i work on it and other people as well. mr. mullin: mr. harris, i appreciate it. . kauffman, mr. ka nan, -- canan, we do -- -- ms. canan, we do appreciate what you're doing but we need to work on the enforcement side of it so it's not just a slim chance they'll get caught. r. burgess: thank you. s. brooks: three years ago, we launched a fraud prevention workshop that's traveled to all our countries -- counties. i appreciate that we have to take a multilevel approach in working on this whether it's the federal, state or local levels and i do have to say that when you think about retirement
security, and i talk about security a lot, and retirement is part of that when i'm out talking with constituents. people often are embarrassed, they're concerned -- they don't want to share if they've been scammed. and it's -- i appreciate the work that you all are doing. they don't want to share with their families. they don't want to share they don't want to talk about it. it might even take a while for them to realize it. and i'm curious, i'm a former u.s. attorney. i'm curious whether or not any u.s. attorneys' offices, whether in the civil division or the criminal division are engaged? i know they are on identity theft because that's something we've been working on for a very, very long time as the justice department has worked on it. i'm curious whether or not any of you are working with any u.s. attorney's offices on task forces or civil -- whether it's the civil division or criminal division. this is for any of you. >> we work closely with a number
of u.s. terns throughout the country. we have a criminal liaison unit at the f.t.c. we realize a lot of our cases should be prosecuted criminally. we have referrals and support to criminal law enforcement. mr. kaufman: since we started the program in 2003, well over 700 of our defendants have been prosecuted criminally on a variety of fraud. ms. brooks: ms. canan? ms. canan: i'm in the consumer education section of the bureau, i'll have to get back with you about whether our team are engaged with u.s. attorneys, i suspect that they are. i know we're in frequent contact with the department of justice and have frequent communications with d.a.'s around the country about prosecuting elder exploitation and apuce. ms. brooks: mr. harris? mr. harris: we do work with the
u.s. attorney's office, it's a relationship that's developed other the years. we've even worked with the postal inspectors on cases as well. so i think it becomes for us, it becomes a relationship building and i think we have established that at least in chicago. ms. brooks: thank you. just, with respect to your respective agencies, i'm curious, how many people work on this specifically? how many f.t.e.'s, going back to my days in justice, how many f.t.e.'s are focused on this? mr. kaufman: at the f.t.c. we don't have attorneys designated as working specifically on enior issues, we have them working on a broad range of issues. it's an area of interest throughout the bureau. ms. canan: our office is small, determined and dedicated but
small. under 10 full-time employees but we have the benefit of working with other divisions and offices throughout the bureau. so when we become aware of a particular problem where it appears that it may include violations of the law, we bring in other divisions that have the ability to ep gauge in enforcement or supervision. we also have a market division and research division too. so we are frequently working, even though we're small we have the benefit of being able to work with others around the bureau. ms. brooks: when the f.t.c. does, on those rare occasions, when you recover funds, how do you ensure that the victims receive the funds? mr. kaufman: that's our first priority if there's enough noun get back to consumers, we get customer lists and do a pro rata distribution. our number one priority is
stopping the crime and number two is getting money back to consumers. ms. brooks: how does that happen? mr. kaufman: we have a redress office in our bureau. we have contractors we work with. depending on the niche of the fraud, often we'll have customer lists. sometimes there might be a claims process. it varies depending on how the consumers were defraud and what information we have. ms. boston red sox: one last question if i might. how do we make sure, mr. harris, when so many of these financial abuses go underreported, underrecognized, underprosecuted, what would you like for us to do? mr. harris: i think one of the thing that's lacking is organizations like mine. not necessarily that do guardianship work but that focus on recovering moneys on a local level, for seniors. there's a lot of people we can't help. and if there's some way that the federal government can support legal assistance foundations or
other legal services, you know, for establishing attorneys in those offices that focus specifically on this area, i think that would be very helpful. ms. brooks: thank you, i yield back. mr. burgess: the gentlelady yields back. the chair recognizes the gentleman, mr. butterfield, for five minutes. mr. butterfield: thank you, mr. chairman, for convening this hearing and thank you to the witnesses, mr. harris, i won't be able to get to you today, please done take that personally. i know a little bit about the cook county public guardian best in it's one of the the nation. who was the person there before you? mr. rar -- mr. harris: patrick murphy.
mr. butterfield: yes, any daughter-in-law worked for him. thank you for the work that you do. the federal -- the f.t.c. recently created a program called pass it on in which the commission reaches out to older americans with information about avoiding common types of fraud by contacting them at places where they gather and interact like libraries, clubs, and adult living facilities system of mr. kauffman, let's start with you. can you explain why that approach might be more effective at disseminating anti-fraud information than, say, publishing the information on a website or even mailer? mr. kaufman: absolutely. we engaged in research before we instituted the pass it on program we met with seniors and met with people who provide support for seniors. we discuss what's the best way to effectively communicate information, short, clear, concise information on specific topics. we so far given away about three million copies of it to, i think it's more than 8,000 different
organizations around the country. so there's a lot of research and we're going to issue adecisional aspect of it in the coming year. mr. butterfield: the pass it on initiative seems to emphasize the importance of striking the right tone in educating seniors about fraud len schemes, that it's respectful and nonjudgmental. o you find that seniors, mr. kaufman, respond better to information given from people of their own generation? and how can the financial iteracy community honor this preference? mr. kaufman: it's a useful tool. we're continuing to explore it. but it has shown effectiveness and been very successful, we've got an positive feedback about the program. we'll continue to monitor it and see how it can be improved over time. mr. butterfield: ms. canan, as someone who promotes financial
literacy, do you agrow with this approach? ms. canan: yes, we do. we have very similar materials or type of materials that are written in plain language, that are nonjudgmental, and you know, we frequently will actually use the f.t.c.'s materials, the pass it on materials, and we go to conferences together and share tables and distribute our materials jointly. mr. butterfield: finally, mr. chairman, the f.t.c. conducted a workshop in october of last year that explored some of these issues, including how fraud affect different communities in different ways. mr. kaufman what were some of the outcomes from this workshop in terms of the senior community? do consumer groupsed on others know how to address the problems that are really unique? mr. kaufman: our every community initiative, we kicked it off about a year, year and a half ago, pass it on is a result of
that. we realized there were experts on senior issues that provided information how best to reach senior. we focused on reaching spanish-speaking americans and african-americans. we're looking for law enforcement actions where they're targeting specific populations and we want to make sure our law enforcement and education programs reach all americans. . butterfield: mr. chairman, i'm going to set a record today, i have to be in the canon building in 30 seconds, so i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair recognizes mr. guthrie for five minutes. mr. guthrie: i apologize i missed some of this. mr. kauffman and ms. canan, i'm going to ask you a couple of questions on the original offices. how involved are your original offices in combating fraud
against the elderly? mr. kaufman: our regional offices are incredibly involve. they do a lot of litigation an fraud work and also a lot of outreach on the local level. our regional offices provide enormous benefit to the bureau and it's important to us that they're there, on the ground, bringing actions and doing utreach. mr. guthrie: ms. canan? ms. canan: i may have to get back to you was i don't want to say anything that's incorrect but it's my understanding that regional offices are mostly occupied by our exammers -- examiners. we have a full team of examiners that are examining financial institutions and nonetheless, in our headquarters, we have a nationwide approach in our enforcement action -- and our enforcement actions are nationwide. our consumer education
engagement is nationwide as well. mr. guthrie: do either of you guy, do either of your agecies measure engagement on this issue at a regional level to see if there are trends that target or scam seniors in one area more than another? ms. canan: i'll start. yes, abslutly. we are frequently going through our consumer complaints just as one example, and in the process of doing that, we look for geographical, you know, spikes in complaints and things of that sort. in addition, we are frequently conferring with stake holders that are nationwide around the country, having called and -- calls and hearing from people on the ground about particular problems they're seeing. mr. kaufman: at the f.t.c. we poed over the past few years 30 different common ground conferences throughout the country. we get together law enforcement officers from other
organizations, consumer organizations, we have a day-long discussion of the issues they're seeing. it's a way to get inform information, develop relationships and keep abreast of trends that are happening. mr. guthrie: i want to hear more about the pass it on program. you said you're going to be looking at the effectiveness of the pass it on? i know you have other programs. how do you measure the effectiveness? what do you do to do a review of effect iness? mr. kaufman: it's hard to do an assess oment fraud. we get a lot of requests, we have a lot of organizations that take our materialsened stamp their logo on it and use it, we're delighted when they do that, we want to get the message out. we keep bring manager cases and that's one measure of our success. and the receptiveness people have to our materials is one measure as well. it is a challenge to precisely
measure how effective are we being? we also do a survey every year of one of our consumer education websites to see if consumers are satisfied with it and we do well there as well. mr. guthrie: it's hard to measure the crime you prevent, i understand that. thank you and i'll join mr. butter feel in yielding back time. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida, mr. bilirakis. mr. bilirakis: i thank the panel for their testimony. mr. kauffman -- mr. kaufman, you state the importance of recognizing trends and fraud against the elderly as the pop lair of -- population of older americans continues to grow. the census estimates that the number of seniors 65 and older will surpass americans under a age 18 for the first time, actually, we're 18 years away from that, in 201313. -- in 2033. what resources is the f.t.c.
putting toward following trends in fraud against the elderly, allocate regular sources to prosecute fraud,ing and assessing the risk? mr. kaufman: our consumer sentinel database, which has millions of complaints, is an incredibly important tool for us. we all share information, put it into the database and we're frequently analyzing it, looking for trends an developments. we're also continuing to do more law enforcement and more outreach. it's a very important priority or us. mr. bilirakis: i've had several seminars in my area in florida and you participated, the f.t.c. has, and done a wonderful job. maybe this question also is for mr. harris, is there a line, maybe anonymous line, where
someone, a friend of a loved one who is having trouble, an elderly person who is having trouble or maybe has been taken advantage of, where a person can call and report an incident? mr. cough map: we collect plaints at ftc.gov/complaint and we have a toll free throw umber, 1- 77-ftc-help. mr. bilirakis: i know you do a wonderful job, but most seniorors don't qualify for your services. can you refer some seniors to other programs where they can be helped? and also is there an anonymous line or maybe a 211, we have 211 in florida where a person can call and be made aware of some services. specifically, is there an anonymous line where maybe a friend or loved one who is having difficulty can share those concerns with your
particular program? mr. harris: with my office, call directly at 312-603-0800 and we'd refer to to either an adult protective services agency minnesota tored by the state of illinois or the city of chicago, or call 311. frankly in chicago, and get help that way as well. mr. bilirakis: what are the ways you gather information with regard to maybe candidates that need your services? mr. harris: we talk to their medical providers, doctors. we also have some power, investigatory power to look at previous reports of adult abuse or exploitation of some of our wards. we also have some access to financial records, these avi an investigatory process. if we open it for intake.
we use subpoena power, once we have a case that's opened, and in other legal -- and other legal tools like depositions and other tools. mr. bilirakis: thank you. i'll follow the trend and yield back my time. thank you, mr. chairman. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair wants to observe, questions have come up on social security numbers on medicare cards, that was part of a law passed in april my understanding, and i've got crack staff who are always watching me an they provided me the information, i think it is within four years' time, an agreement between the secretaries of health and human services and the commissioner for services, the change is coming. it's not going to be an immediate change if anyone gets a card in the next couple of months it may not reflect that change but it was passed, signed into law by the president, one
of those times when things did work as intended. seing that there are no further members wishing to ask questions for the first panel, i wanted to thank our witnesses for being here today. this will conclude our first panel and we will take a two-minute recess to set up for he second panel. mr. burgess: i want to welcome everyone back and thank you for your patience and for being here. we'll follow the same format at the first panel, each witness will have five minutes for opening statement, followed by a round of question from members. we want to welcome the following witnesses, professor charles wallace, underfwradge watt program director for computer
science at michigan technical university. stanger with consumer reports. we begin with you, professor wallace. five minutes for an opening statement. mr. wallace: thank you for the opportunity to speak at this meeting. the students in my discrete math course who get the day off also thank you. my name is charles wallace, i'm associate professor of computer science and michigan technological university. it's a research-focused university in the upper peninsula of michigan with an emphasis on technology, engineering and scientific degree programs. for the past four year, our breaking digital barriers group at michigan tech has organized and participated in an ongoing utreach program in cooperation
with a public library that trains seniors to computers and exposes students to the retail ofs of digital nonnatives we have identified current themes and the most jermane theme is anxiety versus exploration. lacking appropriate grounding in this new technology, our senior patrons lter nate between nay eve trust and paralyzing suspicion, neither of which leads to comfortable, product i use. our program addresses this by providing a safe place for learning aamong peers, interaction with mentors who model appropriate use and develop a healthy balance between caution and exploration. residents over age 65 institute other 50% of our -- cons constitute over 50% of our
elders. many of them are below the poverty line. there's a strong need to help with digital literacy in this community. the experience of using a computing device is well known to dwuse anxiety in elders. many are fearful of going online because of stories of fraud and identity theft they've heard in the media. without a basis of understanding for how malware and other threat work, they have no model for how to minimize their threat level. anything could be a threat system of many learners fear learning to use a computer altogether. one unfortunately consequence of anxiety is their reluctance to explore. and for newcombers to software, this is a vital form of exploration. to complicate matters further, it's often far from clear whether someone is a victim of true criminals or an adwressive business pushing a product.
for instance, mitch, a recreational computer uses, paid thousands of dollars to a company because to optimize him his business. tutors determined after a lot of exploring and calling the company that sold the service to him what the service does and explained to him what he'd paid for. mitch's business has no online presence and being a local presence, being searchable as an advertisement on search engines dun help him. in this case, mitch was not a victim of fraud or theft, strictly speaking, but paid a legitimate business to help him without understanding the services hetches paying for. it's clear that basic literacy and secure online behavior is an essential weapon in fighting fraud against the elderly.
-- we believe online at the lie brir serves as an effect i and reputable learning model a safe place for learning, asking potentially embassing questions and getting strength from seeing peers in the same position. personal contact with mentors who can model appropriate behavior and attitudes. development of healthy online behavior. finding a balance that keeps seniors safe without stifling their creativity and productive nergy. breaking digital barriers, members are developing an approach to help elled oler 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 the upper peninsula of michigan and through the rest of
michigan. more information can be found at our breaking digital barriers bdb. te, mtu.edu/ mr. burgess: thank you. recognized ou are for five minutes. ms. stanger: thank you for inviting me to speak. i'm a senior editor at "consumer reports" and i represent today's advocacy arm union. you may wonder why "consumer reports," which is known for reviewing cars and computers, would highlight elder scams. people have a ithe to know their hard-earned savings are protected. when i was asked to testify i was nervous but then i thought about edna, an 86-year-old great
grandmother from harvey, north dakota, who 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 sweep stakes scam. edna herself lost nearly $300,000, her life savings. most seniors would not be willing to talk but edna was angry and wanted her money back so in spite of being nervous and scared, she spoke out. sadly her money may never be returned. but she helped convict a really bad guy. edna was one of eight victims who spoke for me for a recent article on elder scams that appeared in "consumer reports." i'm truly grateful for their willingness to have their story pub learned. they said they did it to warn others so others might be spared. this isn't typical of elder scam victims. most cases go unreported. victims are edge barsed and ashamed.
among other things they're scared if they tell people will think they're unsophisticated or stupid or losing their cognitive abilities. but honestly, these scams can victimize anyone. criminals catch people offguard, sound convincing, require the victims to make quick decisions and they insist on secrecy. this is their job. they do it all day long. their tactics could work on anyone in the right circumstances. know e scammers know -- that seniors, because they're proud and want to retain their dignity, often keep quiet system of we often don't hear about these schemes as often as we could. that's my point today. these scams run the gamut from sketchy phone and mail solicitations to shady contractors to dishonest financial advisors we need to document them better and seniors need to feel safe about speaking up about their victimization and getting help. understandably, they're concerned about losing
independence if they admit they've been taken or need help avoiding getting conned in the first place. but there are measures they can take that preserve the tignyity and independence. there's a web-based service called eversafe. it identifies any unusual activity in a senior's account and sends alert to the senior or a trusted adult child or other third party. but the senior doesn't have to allow direct access to the account. so the senior can retain criminal. of course consumer reports recommends signeding up for the federal do not call registry and the direct marketing association mail preference to reduce unwanted calls and mail. we've also tested and recommended some call blocking machines that block robo calls which can be the basis of phone scams. notably, we found a free robo call blocking service that's very effective but it's not available on traditional land lines which is what seniors often have. there's no reason why tools to block unwanted calls can't be
made available on landlines but the three top landline providers don't offer them system of consumers union has an end robo calls campaign that has gathered more than half a million petition signatures. we're soon going to deliver it to phone companies to demand that free, more effective tools be offered. these developments can help stem elder scams but they must be supplemented by communeation and education. elder financial exploitation needs to be part of the national conversation. we published articles about it, other publications have, but i'd love to see a hollywood movie on this. it's a plot with poignant story, hoe roik investigators and victims, pile os money and some exotic locations. thankfully, some seniors are willing to speak out. there's an acting troop in los angeles called the stop senior scam acting program. the actors are all seniors, the oldest is 97.
they write skits dramatizing scams and perform them in senior centers and other locations. some of the actors themselves have been 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 not be willing to tell their own families but they'll tell their peers. there's no dearth of creativity, initiative and will to make a dent in this crime. seniors themselves need to feel it's safe to talk about it with law enforcement, adult protective services, peers, and their families. as one of the actors in the stop senior scam program said, don't keep it a secret. you're not the only one. thank you. mr. burgess: thank you. i thank both of you for your testimony. we move to the questioning portion of the hearing. we begin questioning on this side. i'll yield to mr. harper phi minutes for questions. mr. harper: thank you, mr. chairman. thanks to you both for being here. some great stories, i know your
class is very excited today, they're probably watching as we speak. we wish them well. just in case they're there. ms. stanger, you have spent obviously a significant amount of time putting together the lies, secrets, and scams piece for "consumer reports." what was the most shocking thing you learned while researching the article? ms. stanger: i think the most shocking thing is that it is so rampant. it seems everywhere, every person i turned to in the elder justice community and adult protective services, when i would call them and say i was doing this, they would say, thank you, we need to have this publicized. please, it's every where. in my own family, with my husband and i together, we could think of four instances of various elder abuse situations. it is everywhere. and it is really underreported. it was 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. so the conversation, i think, needs to change to not being fraid. mr. harper spst it's embarrassing to suffer that. they'd rather suffer in silence. i know dealing in the last year with a gentleman, a senior who fell for one of the scams of, you know, send us money and you're going to get a lot of money back, he was thinking, this will help me pay for my adult kids' graduate school and i'm going to take care of my wife and we said, don't do it. and he did it anyway. and he kept doing it to the tune of probably most of his savings, even though his wife, you know, i don't know yet that he's still has grasped what he's done. it's a very difficult thing because when you have people that can be the really control that and fall prey to that and they don't have someone overseeing it, it's very
difficult. i know in your article you talk about some of the great senior-led initiatives to educate their peers about the fraud risk. have you seen any similar initiatives to educate care givers, and what experience with the care givers to seniors did you have with in -- did you have in your research? ms. stanger: the cftc's program they talked about where they have booklets to educate care givers and people who have fiduciary duty over seniors accounts, these are helpful. they're new and being promulgated in different states. i think that's very helpful. i think care givers need more education. that's something we can start to do in our publication. clearly, i spoke with one woman who, she knew, exactly the same thing. her father and mother were involved in the scam and she did not know how to stop them. and so, widespread education can
be very useful. sometimes, i found a victims' services, victim specialist from the f.b.i. in los angeles, who people come to her when they have relatives who are repeat scam victims. these are often the toughest because they've developed an emotional relationship with the scammer, often. they trust them. and this woman from the f.b.i., she fells people, call me. if somebody calls you, you call me. i'm going to walk you through this. i'll keep you from getting scammed again. sometimes it requires really, you know, hand in hand cooperation. mr. harper: some of these, you'll see that they'll give -- they'll get into it. they'll send them a few thousand dollars. and then, well, we've got these adecision a -- additional costs, send us -- and think think, i'm in this far and they keep going and going.
it's just heartbreaking, what you see. but thanks for your work on that. really do appreciate it. professor wallace, in your testimony, you talk about how in your experience you have seen a lot of anxiety about using technology and very naive trust about technology that pose risks for consumers and things that are constantly moving, as we see. my adult daughter has -- because i know we're on the record here, has quit using facebook once her mom, my wife, started getting on facebook. mr. wallace: facebook is for old people. mr. harper: there you go. so what are the most effective ways to teach seniors they can be safe online without thinking they'll break their device or trusting every single pop-up that comes through on the screen? mr. wallace: it's a tough problem. one thing that helps a lot is
being among peers. and realizing that they're not alone. and that other newcombers to the technology are struggling with the same kinds of issues. one exercise we've done in the past thing has been effective, has been considering what they do with physical postal mail they get that looks suspicious. it has a certain smell to it, right? and you get something in the mail and look at it and go, no, i'm not going -- i'm going to throw this in the waste bin. mr. harper: my time is long over, i'm going to yield back, hopefully they can finish back up on that. mr. wallace: sure. mr. burgess: the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair recognizes the gentlelady from illinois. ms. schakowsky: in our first panel we talked about shame, we talked about it again in this panel. so i'm wondering if there are
tools other than the individual having to report that couldn't be more effective? in your article you mentioned several cases in which a bank allowed older people to repeatedly withdraw large amounts of money and presumably when that was out of the -- presumably when it was out of order for that particular person. actually did nothing to investigate whether fraud was involved and perhaps didn't even notify anybody until the point at which the person attempted to get a loan from the bank. so what should be, or is being done to encourage bnks to take a more active role in intervening -- banks to take a more active role in intervening in these situations? ms. stanger: i don't have much information on this, except that some banks are making it part of the company-wide effort, such as
wells fargo, they're educating everybody to be a reporter. in -- not every state has the same law 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 helms thises that are taking it upon themselves to -- themselves that are taking it upon themselves to do this. i can't speak in great detail about what the bankers association has been doing but there are some banks saying, if you think there's something going on, you need to speak up right away and not wait until time goes by. certainly more education at all levels from the teller, you know, the teller is often the person that sees the senior taking out the money 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 member to have a relationship with the local bank. often seniors go to local
branches. they don't -- i don't know how much they're doing their banking online as opposed to other population groups but often seniors go to the bank, especially if they're taking out a large amount of money, they'll go to the teller. so it's a good idea for the families to have a relationship with the bank so that this kind of conversation can be -- ms. schakowsky: i have a feeling if the woman who was trying to help her son reportedly in peru if the -- even if the teller would have said, you know, that's a lot of money, she might have shared that story, oh, my grandson is in trouble and i'm trying to help him. it just seems like those kinds of conversations even could help. i don't know how one enforces that. one other question for you and then for professor wallace. i think some people think that these might be small scam
operations, but you pointed out that actually, some of these are fairly big-time operators. i wonder if you could talk about that a little bit. ms. stanger: we looked at something called the jamaican lottery scam you may have heard about. this is -- it operates not just out of jamaica but other foreign countries as well. costa rica, israel, canada i think. so this is where people are called, elderly people are called, they have a list, scammers have a list they've collected, it may be because somebody has responded to something in the mail. and then they sent something back, their name, maybe a phone number, maybe some money because they think they'll be receiving something. these lists are created, scammers get a hold of these lists, they know this is somebody who has responded once to a mailing, so then they will call these seniors and they are
very, very organized. they know how to get seniors emotional they know how to draw the senior in an they often use threats and these things go on for months and months. people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. so they're very organized. ms. schakowsky: mr. wallace, you mentioned the breaking digital barriers program at michigan tech that could serve as a national model. what are some common themes you have observed in seniors that have taken the course and do you think these trends would be reflective of seniors nationwide? mr. wallace: certainly the anxiety and fear of adopting the technology is a profound one. we need to balance this concern about fraud which is absolutely legitimate, with a -- something that encourages them to explore in a safe way and so finding
that balance is really a key issue for us. and we still struggle with it. we are looking for sort of metaphors, ways in which we can relate it to their life offline. what do you do to be sensible and safe and secure in your regular life? can you transfer those kinds of skills over to the digital world? so that's one of the things that i think is -- ms. schakowsky: i do want to say that, let's see. the pew research center said 35% of americans age 65 and older currently use social media, up 27% from 2014. so more and more people are. and in 2014, pew reported 59% of this age group using the internet, with 71% going on daily. so we're seeing more an more
seniors. mr. wallace: for sure. in our area it's vital for them to go online because so many of their family members live far away now. so it's a tremendous asset for them. really a lifeline in a way. it's important for them to adopt this technology. ms. schakowsky: thank you, i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair recognizes mr. mullin of oklahoma, five minutes for your questions please. mr. mullin: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for being here. professor wallace, what gave you the idea to even start this up? i mean, just taking a look at you, i'm very impressed, not by your looks, i'm very impressed by the idea that you would take this initiative, i mean, was this something driven by you? by your students? what made you even think of this? mr. wallace: one driving force is that the type of material
that i teach to our students involves understanding users of the technology that they're developing. so our students are going to be developing the software that we all are going to be using in just a few years. i want them to understand what regular people are like. and everything, certainly people who don't have that kind of deep understanding of the technology that they do. very often what happens is software people develop software for other software people. we need to have a broader view of what the user base is going to be like. by the way, one thing i want to insert here, i got a message from one of my colleagues in breaking digital barriers, this is not exclusively a senior problem. digital literacy is something that is a concern for people a-- across age groups.
we have worked with people who, they're younger than i am so by definition they're not old, who struggle with the technology. o this, in general this is a larger issue that impacts seniors greatly. but also, i think we need to keep in mind the broader issue. mr. mullin: thank you for seing a need. i'm assuming that once you started down this path it became a passion because the amount of work you have put into this, this wasn't just a class project. did you get personally involved in it? to some degree? surprisingly? mr. wallace: yeah, i think it's fair to say that everybody who has participated in it, students, faculty, really take a personal interest in it. it's the kind of work that's so much fun that it doesn't feel like work. apart from the learning that gos
on in our sessions, it's also a social session. it's a way for generations to meet and work together in a productive way. it's just a lot of fun. mr. mullin: ms. stanger, did i say that right? now, kind of the same question applies to you too. this isn't, the way i understand, this wasn't exactly your background. you just started down this path and one door opened to another and now it's become almost a passion, if i'm seing that right. was there something that led you down this road? ms. stanger: i would say number one, it is my passion but i am a personal finance editor, senior editor in personal finance at consumer reports. this is the second piece we've written on this. two years ago we wrote more about scams, or i say fraud committed by family members and people that seniors know. this one is more about scams by strangers. but yeah, i feel very strongly
about it. consumer reports and consumers union, retirement security is very important to us. i write on all sorts of retirement issues. i'm very interested. but it's just, you can't help when you speak to these seniors, even one or two of them, you have to get drawn. in it's heartbreaking. you know, there's so much we can do, i think. mr. mullin: if you could pick maybe two things you would like to see, for -- maybe there has to be required personal interaction, something signed before you could do it, i don't know -- what would you give this panel, or this hearing, what would you give us, two suggestions to say, hey, work on this. ms. stanger: believe it or not, i think this stop senior scams dramatic group was very impress i. they're the only one i know of in the country. i don't think it's particularly
difficult to fund a little theater group in all communities in the country where they could be communicating to each other. this is senior to senior, it gets the actors themselves out of the house. isolation is a major part of this. getting people out, getting people into the community to talk to each other, is very important. and there is that communication. so that's, i just think, you know, dealing on a grassroots level can make a difference. i think that was reflected in many other of the statements. what else? i think -- i think just supporting the work of -- i think the ftc is doing some wonderful work. pass it on is a useful, an again, grass roots effort and i 's collection, specifically anecdotes from people, have very helpful. obviously they can't, they don't always know what the age is, i
think, of the -- am i right that they don't collect the ages of all the people who report but certainly if people are reporting about problems with reverse mortgages think know somebody is 62 and older. but the more we can get in anecdotes that helps me as a reporter and helps in the collection of data. need more day tafment mr. mullin: thank you for the work you both do. i yield back. mr. burgess: the chair recognizes the gentlelady, ms. brooks, for five minutes. . brooks: prior to coming to congress, i was at a community college. i was there in the recession, from 2007 to 2011. the college and community colleges exploded in enrollment in that time period because so many people had gotten laid off their jobs. of all ages. but particularly those whomp 40, 50 years old who got laid of their jobs needed to -- laid off their jobs needed to come back
to college because they had no digital literacy skills and couldn't apply for jobs online because of the digital literacy , or lack, digital illiteracy. i'm pleased that you are doing this. how would you encourage other schools, how much are you talking about this? obviously this is a nice platform for you to publicize but how are other communities, you know, are they taking up your baton? doing what you're doing? or are you a unique program in the country? i'm not that familiar with the various programs. and then secondly what are some of the strategies you're using that are actually teaching the seniors? mr. wallace: we're certainly not unique. there are several other efforts in this regard. i want to include senior net, cyberseniors, generations online. there are a lot of groups doing
similar kind of work in this space. ms. brooks: do they actually go into the communities, like you are doing? or are they more online educational tools? mr. wallace: there are a variety of approaches. some of them are truly working one-on-one. i don't want to claim we're the only ones doing this kind of work. obviously, this is a tremendous platform to raise awareness. i was also invited to the white house conference on aging over the summer which gave me a platform to speak up about this. and certainly, within the state of michigan, there's been a tremendous amount of interest that's come up from that. we are working now in conjunction with other universities. i feel like it's a very easy model to implement. and what we're in the business of doing right now is codifying
what we do at michigan tech so that we candice butte that to other schools and give them a leg up on the whole process. ms. brooks: what are some strategies you have found that work best when you are teaching? mr. wallace: well, as i said in my statement, having tutors sort of model their own behavior and speak out loud about it is an important piece of it. so having an experienced computer user say, well, you know, looking at what's on the screen, well, in this case, i'd be thinking about this, and i would be worried about this, and i would want to try out this. working out what's going on in their minds, saying it out loud is an important piece of that to articulate that this is a process just like working with any other aspect of life. you have to weigh the pros and cons and think about things that are sensible, for instance,
looking at junk mail you get in your mailbox compared to initial scan by email. that brings it become to familiar territory which i think is useful. saying this is not something entirely new, it's different, and you have to learn how to use it, but it's not entirely new. i just want to say that ms. stanger and i are both in agroment that education in this regard is an extremely effective and low cost way of addressing this problem of fraud online. a little bit of education i think can go a long way to stem some of the problems we see. it takes immense amount of time and effort to fix later. ms. brooks: we focus a lot of education on the young getting online.
ms. stanger, i would like you know know that every time i go home and visit my parents, "consumer reports" is front and center. i want to ask, are there enough and do they know what they are? we have several places where people can report. aarp is very involved. thecfpb something called task force where you can report side, debt on the senate they had the commission on aging hotline, you can call and they will tell you to go. a lot of people, the first person they