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Legislation Awaiting Final Signature Enhances Penalties for Marketing Fraud Directed at Senior Citizens

Legislation enhancing law enforcement efforts and increasing penalties for crimes targeted at America’s senior citizens now awaits President Trump’s signature after passing the House of Representatives earlier this month and the Senate in early August 2017.

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act, authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), contains several major components aimed at, among other things, better investigating and prosecuting elder abuse crimes, improving data collection on elder abuse and enhancing victim assistance. The Act, Grassley said, will send a “clear signal from Congress that combating elder abuse and exploitation should be a top priority for law enforcement."

One particular provision of the Act amends the federal criminal code to expand prohibited telemarketing fraud to include “telemarketing or email marketing” fraud—measures conducted to induce the purchase of goods or services; participation in a contest or sweepstakes; charitable contributions; participation in business opportunities; or commitment to a loan. The legislation also enhances penalties for perpetrators; a defendant convicted of telemarketing or email marketing fraud that targets or victimizes a person over age 55 is subject to an enhanced criminal penalty and mandatory forfeiture.

The Act also requires the Federal Trade Commission to designate an Elder Justice Coordinator within its Bureau of Consumer Protection, who will coordinate and support its consumer education efforts and policy activities, and to submit an annual report to Congress detailing  the  enforcement  actions  taken  by  the FTC and the Department  of  Justice over  the  preceding year.

Take away: Marketers should take great care at reviewing offers targeting those fifty-five and older. Given the enhanced penalties, marketers should take steps to ensure that their business practices would not be construed as telemarketing or email marketing fraud.