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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release October 11, 1998

Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore unveiled a new initiative today to help stamp out telemarketing fraud and prevent elder abuse against vulnerable older Americans, such as by forming new elder fraud prevention teams in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle.

"President Clinton and I have a longstanding commitment to improving quality of life for older Americans, such as by protecting nursing home residents, preserving and strengthening Medicare, and saving Social Security first," Vice President Gore said. "That is why I am pleased to announce these tough new efforts to crack down on telemarketing fraud and elder abuse to protect older Americans."

Today's announcement includes:

Launching new Elder Fraud Prevention Teams. The Vice President will launch a pilot to create Elder Fraud Prevention Teams (EFPTs) in four cities: Miami, FL; Phoenix, San Diego, and Seattle. The EFPTs -- created through an innovative partnership between the Justice Department and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) -- 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: (1) give presentations on major types of fraud directed at older people; (2) suggest how seniors can protect themselves against fraud; and (3) instruct them on how to report possible fraud.

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

Announcing new information on telemarketing fraud on the Internet. 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.

In addition, the Vice President announced new ways to help prevent and detect elder abuse, which includes financial, emotional, and physical abuse, and he called on Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act. The Vice President:

Announced funding to establish new national center on elder abuse to educate on how to detect and prevent elder abuse. President Clinton is directing the Department of Health and Human Services to create a National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which will serve as a major new resource to help them prevent, detect and stop elder abuse. It will:

(1) serve as a training ground for social service officials to better detect abuse and neglect and develop strategies for how best to intervene; (2) launch a new effort to recruit "senior sentinels," or volunteers, to return to their communities, to give peers suffering from abuse a place to turn for help; and (3) serve as an information clearinghouse where the public can find information on elder abuse and neglect, and social services agencies can find out how other states and localities deal with this problem through a listing of "best practices."

Urged Congress to reauthorize the Older Americans Act before it adjourns. The Older Americans Act (OAA) provides a wide range of critical services to older Americans, including: funds to help states prevent elder abuse; services to help counsel seniors on their rights and to coordinate legal services for those who can not afford representation; and assistance hotlines for seniors who need help. In addition, it funds the popular meals-on-wheels program, adult day care, and job training. In the absence of reauthorization, these critical programs are at risk for not being reauthorized and adequately funded for the future, making it difficult to recruit and retain personnel to effectively advocate for, and intervene on behalf of, the abused. The President urged the Congressional leadership to schedule a vote and reauthorize the Older Americans Act before Congress adjourns this Fall, and he emphasized that he would readily sign the bipartisan bill to reauthorize OAA.

Today's announcements build on the Administration's efforts to protect older Americans.

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.