SC senator working to prevent rising fraud cases targeting elderly people

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is one of many lawmakers working to protect senior citizens from financial scams.

In 2021, South Carolinians lost almost $50 million to scammers.

“We have a sacred duty to protect seniors and their families against scammers and criminals,” said Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, the bipartisan Stop Senior Scam Act directed the Federal Trade Commission to work to prevent fraud among elderly people.

The FTC reports that in 2021 alone, scammers defrauded seniors out of a billion dollars.

“It’s a different kind of evil to take advantage of our seniors,” Sen. Scott said. “According to the FTC, identity theft  was the number one scam in South Carolina in 2021 with 17,642 cases.”

“But it’s romance scams that lead the pack in terms of personal financial cost,” said Marti DeLiema, University of Minnesota professor.

DeLiema says whether it’s a romance, healthcare, cryptocurrency or government agency imposter scam, she believes the private sector can do more to fight fraud.”

“Legislation such as the Trace Act is a fantastic example of how phone companies with help from Congress can limit unwanted and fraudulent calls,” DeLiema said. “We need similar solutions applied to other methods on contact from bogus text messages to fake social media profiles.”

“People of our baby boomer age are very trusting persons,” said Pennsylvania resident Aurelia Costigan. “We are also not very tech savvy.”

Costigan is just one of many people impacted by a financial scam.

“I pride myself on not spending foolishly and having sharp financial instincts but when I realized that someone took such advantage of me, the bottom fell out of my life,” said South Carolina resident Polly Fehler.

Fehler was scammed online by a person pretending to work for Microsoft.

“He opened a window and showed me my checking account,” Fehler remembers. “Instead of $6,000, it had $26,000. I screamed ‘How did this happen? How did you get in?’ I was stunned.”

The scammer had Miss Fehler send him $20,000. Little did she know, the money was coming from a loan she had unintentionally taken out.

“Now I owed USAA $20,000 plus interest,” Fehler said. “I live on a fixed income and couldn’t make the payments.”

She had to pay off the loan using her retirement account. She says she wishes her bank had better protected her from the scam and had known about resources.

“Frankly I’m astounded that all the people I talked to did not give me the number for the resource line,” Fehler said. “Not one.”

The fraud hotline is 1-855-303-9470. 

Categories: Local News, Richland