Saying more needs to be done to help protect older Americans from a growing legion of scammers focused on stealing a lifetime of savings, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tuesday introduced legislation that would impose additional civil fines for financial fraud against seniors.
The Senior Investor Protections Enhancement Act of 2013 would tack on an additional $50,000 in penalties for fraudulent investments involving people 62 and older. Existing fines range from $5,000 to $100,000 for individuals and $50,000 to $500,000 for businesses.
Under the bill, those fines would increase to a range of $55,000 to $150,000 for individuals and $100,000 to $550,000 for businesses.
The act would amend several federal laws, including the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
Mr. Casey, who introduced a similar bill in 2008 and 2009, said he would be working in coming months to attract bipartisan support.
He said there was no specific incident that prompted the legislation. Fraud against seniors "is just something we hear about on a regular basis," Mr. Casey said in a conference call with reporters.
He cited a 2011 study by MetLife that estimated losses from financial elder abuse at more than $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from 2008.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to financial fraud because they often have substantial savings that make an attractive target for scam artists. Health problems and cognitive impairment also can make seniors susceptible.
A 2012 survey of financial, regulatory, health and other professionals who work with the elderly called financial swindles targeting seniors a "national crisis."
The survey by the nonprofit Washington-based Investor Protection Trust identified the best prevention method as education.
"We always urge people not to sign things or agree to something unless they understand what they are signing up for," Mr. Casey said.
Patricia Sabatini: email@example.com or 412-263-3066. First Published June 19, 2013 4:15 AM