June 16, 2024

Gottheimer’s Bill to Combat Online Scams

An increasing number of seniors are losing billions of dollars to online scams perpetrated on social media, via phone calls, or through emails. U.S. Representative, Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, has introduced a bill aimed at solving this issue. The bill proposes a $60 million fund to support states in combating this fraud surge.

Representing the 5th Congressional District of North New Jersey, Gottheimer unveiled the bipartisan bill, named ‘Empowering States to Protect Seniors Against Bad Actors Act,’ at the Fair Lawn Senior Center. Republican Congressman Zach Nunn of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland are co-sponsoring the bill.

This legislation, if passed, will lead to the creation of a grant program at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to assist states in fighting scams. The program, as explained by Gottheimer, would impart $10 million each year to states for six years. The funds could potentially be used for increasing the number of enforcement officers, procuring technologies to identify scams, and creating educational resources for public awareness.

At the news conference, Gottheimer [said](https://gottheimer.house.gov/posts/release-as-part-of-senior-security-strategy-gottheimer-announces-new-action-to-combat-senior-scams-on-social-media-and-more) that although states are doing their best to break down on fraudsters, they lack the necessary tools.

The Nature of Scams

Scammers often impersonate police officers and claim that an arrest warrant has been issued for the senior or one of their family members. In some instances, fraudsters dress up as delivery personnel from reputable companies like Amazon and attempt to force their way into homes when doors are opened for package “signing”.

The problem is particularly prevalent in Bergen County, home to over 200,000 seniors—the largest population of people aged over 60 in the state, according to Gottheimer. As per the 2023 [FBI’s Elder Fraud Report](https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/elder-fraud-in-focus), these scams resulted in a loss of $3.4 billion for seniors last year. Over 2,000 senior scams were reported to the FBI from New Jersey in the past year alone.

Gottheimer’s Call to Social Media Companies

Gottheimer believes that social media platforms could do more to prevent such scams. He is planning to address letters to Facebook and X CEOs to request the addition of scam warnings, flagging and restriction of potential scam accounts, simplified fraud report processes, and educating seniors about ways to report problems. He revealed that according to the Federal Trade Commission, approximately a quarter of all scams originate from social media platforms.

Alongside his campaign to increase social media companies’ responsibility, Gottheimer plans to declare May 9 as National Scam Survivor Day.

Keeping Safe Online

Local authorities have provided the following tips to protect against online scams:

– Make your social media accounts less public by changing privacy settings.
– Avoid clicking on or downloading attachments from suspicious emails or text messages.
– Never show your ID or passport on a web camera, even when requested.
– Be wary of requests for payments in wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
– Be mindful that New Jersey does not have cash bail, so any bail money requests are likely scams.

For detailed local news, subscribe or activate your digital account at NorthJersey.com. Reach Stephanie Noda, a local reporter, via email at [noda@northjersey.com](mailto:noda@northjersey.com), or on Twitter [@snoda11](https://twitter.com/snoda11?s=17).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary objective of Gottheimer’s bill?

The main goal of the bill introduced by Representative Josh Gottheimer is to empower states to combat the growing issue of senior online scams. The bill proposes a $60 million fund to be provided over six years, aiding states in implementing effective enforcement measures, developing technology to identify scams, and generating educational resources.

Why is Gottheimer addressing letters to the CEOs of social media companies?

Gottheimer believes that these social media platforms can play a substantial role in scam prevention. His letters will urge these companies to implement effective scam warning systems, flag and restrict potential scam accounts, make the process of reporting fraud simpler, and educate users about how to report fraud.

What steps can individuals take to protect themselves from online scams?

Several measures can protect oneself from scams: adjusting social media privacy settings, avoiding suspicious downloads, refraining from showing ID or passport on webcams, being skeptical of wire transferred, gift card or cryptocurrency payments, and understanding that New Jersey doesn’t have cash bail, so any requests for bail money are likely fraudulent.