On Thursday, Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell joined Rep. Peter Welch at a congressional hearing examining the prevalence of scams artists bilking vulnerable seniors out of their savings. Welch is a member of the Subcommittee that conducted the hearing, the Subcommitte on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.
Yesterday, Welch joined Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Congressman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) in introducing legislation to empower the Federal Trade Commission to target rip off artists preying on seniors. The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act of 2013 would target fraudulent investment plans and asset management offers, sweepstakes and charity scams, and telemarketing, mail, and internet fraud. The bill would create an office within the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) tasked with alerting consumers to new scams and establishing an effective complaint system to ensure reports of fraud are quickly connected to the appropriate state and local law enforcement agency.
"Every day, in Vermont and across this country, vulnerable seniors are being ripped off by scam artists," said Rep. Peter Welch, "It's not uncommon for their victims to lose their life's savings. Our bill would put a federal cop on the beat to alert seniors of fraudulent schemes and help stop these criminals in their tracks."
Attorney General Sorrell has been working in Vermont to crack down on these scams. In his written testimony before the subcommittee, Sorrell said, "Citizens in the later years of their life have a right to expect that they will not be at risk from the predations of cross-border and other scammers; and yet financial loss arising from such scams, even the loss of one's life savings, occurs all too often among older people" said Sorrell. "The states and the federal government are necessary partners in the noble cause of protecting the most vulnerable among us from fraud, most especially our senior citizens."
Welch and Sorrell have worked with FairPoint Communications' Vermont president, Mike Smith, to highlight the problem of Jamaican scam artists ripping off Vermont seniors through a fake lottery. FairPoint, in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials and the AARP, created a website (www.bewareof876.com) to educate seniors about the Jamaican-based scam.