In testimony before the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging, the Federal Trade Commission said that protecting older adults -- people 60 and over -- is "one of the FTC's top priorities." The FTC said that it "remains firmly committed to protecting older adults through aggressive law enforcement."
The FTC reported that older Americans were disproportionately affected by certain types of scams. While online shopping fraud was the most commonly reported category of fraud in which people of all ages lost money, the FTC said that older adults were less likely to report losing money in connection with online shopping frauds. Instead, they reported losing money more often on tech support scams, prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams, family and friend impersonation scams, romance scams, and business impersonator scams. The FTC also reported that losses by older adults on investment scams nearly doubled in 2020, and reports of losses on cryptocurrency investment opportunities increased nearly fivefold in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Noting that "aggressive law enforcement is a vital component of the FTC's efforts to protect older adults," the FTC testified that it brought at least thirteen new actions in the past year that had a notable impact on older adults. Some of the actions highlighted by the FTC include:
- The FTC charged RagingBull.com with fraudulently marketing investment-related services that the company claimed would enable people to make consistent profits and beat the market;
- The FTC charged Quickwork with deceptively marketing "Wellness Warrior" products as scientifically proven to treat or prevent COVID-19; and
- The FTC charged VoIP provider Alcazar Networks with facilitating tens of millions of illegal telemarketing calls.
The FTC also testified that returning money to consumers who have been harmed by scammers has been a "cornerstone" of the FTC's law enforcement actions. The FTC acknowledged, however, that its ability to continue to obtain financial redress is now "substantially limited" by the Supreme Court's recent AMG decision. The FTC said, "Unless the agency has clear authority to obtain monetary relief, this decision will continue to impede our ability to provide refunds to people harmed by deceptive, unfair, or anticompetitive conduct."
While much of the FTC's enforcement in this area has targeted marketing scams, the FTC's testimony should serve as a warning to all advertisers who are marketing to older consumers that they should exercise extra care to ensure that their advertising is truthful and not deceptive.
"aggressive law enforcement is a vital component of the FTC's efforts to protect older adults"