Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley charged Wednesday there are shortcomings in what the federal government does to protect seniors from financial abuse.

“(Victims) have not received all the help they need,” said the Senator.

As one example of a void, he noted the Justice Department does not collect data on elder financial fraud.

At the start of a hearing on what he called “the crime of the 21st century,” Iowa Republican Grassley announced he and the Judiciary Committee’s lead Democrat, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, soon will introduce a bill to beef up protection.

The legislation would provide for more effective interagency coordination, training to improve the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse, victim assistance to elder abuse survivors, improved data collection, and tougher penalties for senior scamsters.

“We need to make sure that government at all levels is working to spread the word on financial exploitation, that individuals on the front lines receive proper training, and that those in the position to combat these crimes have the necessary tools and authority to do so,” the Senator said.

If the legislation is not made into law in the limited time Congress has left this year, Grassley said, he and Blumenthal will reintroduce the measure when Congress reconvenes next year.

He said he is hopeful he and his Democratic colleague can write a non-controversial bill that would be passed in September.

At the same time, he cautioned one bill could not solve all of the elder abuse problems.

Grassley said a big part of the problem is that crooks have found ways of victimizing individual seniors time and time again.

John Horn, chair of the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee’s Elder Justice Working Group, said the Justice Department is actively prosecuting a wide array of large international and domestic schemes targeting the elderly.

He added the DOJ is enhancing the capacity of state and local prosecutors, other law enforcement agencies and civil legal aid programs to also identify, combat and prosecute elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women was attacked for spending only one-half of 1 percent of its budget on senior abuse by the Elder Justice Coalition in a statement released at the hearing.
Despite the increased clamor in Congress and among financial regulators with the surge of baby boomers entering retirement, older Americans are not necessarily defrauded at higher rates than younger consumers, Federal Trade Commission official Lois Greisman told the panel.

She said the FTC is focusing its senior protection efforts towards online and impostor scams.