Aiming to protect seniors from falling victim to fraudulent schemes and financial abuse, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Danielsen and Shanique Speight was approved Thursday by the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee.
Financial fraud is a fast-growing form of elder abuse. Seniors are often the target of door-to-door scams, or schemes made over the phone, online or by mail. The victims are often urged to take advantage of an opportunity or “prize” quickly. In doing so, they are asked to disclose personal information like social security or bank numbers.
“Scammers frequently target seniors for their financial assets,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Many seniors have substantial savings, own their homes and have great credit. We want to make sure every senior citizen knows how to recognize fraudulent schemes so that they may protect the assets they worked so hard for.”
The measure (A-655) would require the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs to prepare a notice detailing information about different ways seniors may be contacted for or lured into providing information or funds for a fraudulent purpose. It would also advise senior citizens on how to prevent identity theft or loss of funds.
Organizations contracted with the Department of Human Services would be required to distribute the notice developed under the bill.
“Preventing fraud begins with raising awareness,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “One of the biggest reasons senior citizens fall victim to financial scams is because they are unaware of the latest schemes happening across the nation. If we can raise awareness for the dangers of financial abuse, we can hopefully prevent seniors from being exploited.”
“It’s important that seniors not only know how to identify a scam, but also know what to do if they or someone they know become a victim,” said Speight (D-Essex). “Seniors are less likely to report fraud because they do not know where to turn for help. We must do all we can to spread the word about all of the resources New Jersey has to offer, particularly through the Division of Consumer Affairs.”
The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
For resources on senior fraud prevention, visit https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/fightingfraud/Pages/default.aspx.