Gore Cracks Down on Telemarketing Fraud to Seniors

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Vice President Gore unveiled a new initiative this week to help protect senior citizens from telemarketing fraud.


Included in the announcement is the launch of a pilot to create Elder Fraud Prevention Teams in Miami; Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle. The EFPTs -created through an innovative partnership between the Justice Department and the American Association of Retired Persons -- will coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement and other efforts to prevent fraud against older people. The teams will visit sites identified with large numbers of seniors to give presentations on major types of fraud directed at older people; suggest how seniors can protect themselves against fraud; and instruct them on how to report possible fraud.


The Vice President will direct $1.7 million in Justice Department grants towards helping train state and local law enforcement and prosecutors to combat telemarketing scams and other forms of fraud against the elderly. Each year, an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilk Americans of $40 billion -- with over half the victims age 50 or older.


The Justice Department will make new telemarketing information available on its web site. To help older Americans detect telemarketing fraud, the new information posted will include audio tapes of conversations between fraudulent telemarketers and their prospective victims, and will provide tips on how to respond and report possible fraudulent contacts by telemarketers.


President Clinton has twice signed into law tough penalties to fight telemarketing fraud. The 1994 crime bill dramatically increased penalties for telemarketing fraud and authorized $20 million for the FBI to hire more staff to investigate and prosecute telephone fraud cases. This year, the President signed the Telemarketing Prevention Act which further increases penalties for telemarketing fraud and requires telephone companies and Internet service providers to disclose information on customers engaged in telemarketing fraud.


The Justice Department has launched nationwide enforcement initiatives -- including Operation Disconnect and Senior Sentinel -- resulting in the convictions of hundreds of fraudulent telemarketers and virtually wiping out telemarketing operations in targeted major metropolitan areas.
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