The Federal Trade Commission testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee about consumer protection issues facing older Americans, including the agency’s efforts to combat fraud and its education and outreach efforts to help seniors protect themselves.
Testifying on behalf of the Commission, Acting Director Charles Harwood of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection described the nature of current threats to older Americans and emerging threats to baby boomers to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. He noted that while many frauds pose a threat to seniors, the FTC’s Bureau of Economics recently issued a Fraud Report finding that older Americans were more likely to be targeted in prize promotion scams. Harwood discussed the FTC’s recent actions to combat such scams, as well as work-at-home scams, another type of fraud that affects older Americans.
“In difficult economic times, many struggling Americans who cannot work outside the home due to physical, family or other constraints look for ways to supplement their fixed income through honest work,” said Harwood. “These conditions spell ‘opportunity’ for con artists who stand ready to ensnare them.”
In the testimony, Harwood highlighted partnerships with non-governmental organizations, including the AARP Foundation, to help consumers affected by fraud learn more about how to recognize and avoid fraud in the future.
The testimony also addressed the threat of identity theft to older Americans, noting that in 2012, 19 percent of those who complained about identity theft and provided their age to the FTC reported being over the age of 60. The testimony noted the Commission’s recent workshop on senior identity theft, which sought to learn more about these threats.
In addition to current threats facing seniors, the testimony outlines types of fraud that the Commission believes may increase as a result of changing demographics in America. Among these are frauds relating to health care issues, particularly issues relating to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The testimony also notes that recent data indicate that the number of older Americans using the Internet is expanding rapidly, and that seniors may now be more exposed to online fraud than in years past.
Beyond its enforcement actions against scammers and fraudsters who target seniors, the Commission produces a wide array of materials designed to educate older Americans and their caregivers about threats. The testimony noted that the Commission is in the process of creating a new outreach campaign focused on delivering consumer awareness tips to mid-life and older Americans.
The Commission vote authorizing the testimony was 4-0.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection