U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is calling for bipartisan action to crack down on scammers who are targeting seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic after several instances of fraud arise in Iowa and nationwide.
KWQC-TV reported about a scam targeting Iowa seniors, a group particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, in the Fort Madison region. According to police, scammers had been contacting seniors about purchasing and demanding payment for a vaccination for COVID-19 when one does not yet exist.
“In this time of crisis, when Iowans are pulling together to help one another, it is utterly appalling and disgusting to see scammers going after our seniors. This cannot continue,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “I’m calling for a crackdown on these horrendous criminals and for more information to be available for our elderly and those most at-risk about how to best protect against this kind of disgusting fraud. We are all in this together, and we need to all do our best to look after one another, especially our seniors and those who may be most at-risk.”
In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal body that primarily oversees consumer protection, Senator Ernst is urging for additional measures to be put in place to educate seniors and provide consumers with information about how to seek recourse if they are targeted.
In her letter, Senator Ernst specifically requested responses to the following questions:
- What efforts is the FTC currently undertaking to educate seniors about COVID-19-related fraud and how to protect themselves?
- What additional measures is the FTC planning to better protect seniors and assist them should they become victims of COVID-19-related fraud?
- How is the FTC working with other federal agencies to combat COVID-19-related scams?
- What additional resources does the FTC need in order to better protect seniors from COVID-19 and other fraud and educate them on how to prevent it?
On Wednesday, Senator Ernst held another telephone town hall and heard from many of Iowa’s seniors. On the tele-town hall, Ernst was joined by the state director of AARP Iowa, Brad Anderson, and the dean of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, Dr. Brooks Jackson. During the discussion, Ernst and Anderson discussed best practices for seniors and ways to avoid scammers and fraud during this pandemic.
Background on Ernst’s efforts to combat COVID-19:
Senator Ernst has fought to deliver relief to all Iowans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of her efforts:
- Delivered major wins for Iowa’s workers, employers, health care industry, and more in the bipartisan Phase 3 package.
- Supported the “Phase 1” bipartisan package to provide additional resources to federal, state and local authorities.
- Helped pass the “Phase 2” bill to provide paid sick leave, free COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and increased support for nutrition for seniors and children.
- Called for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Urged the Senate to prioritize relief for hospitals, community health centers, and workers on the front lines.
- Announced a proposal to immediately redirect the over $350M in the Presidential Campaign Election Fund to be used to purchase specialized face masks and personal protective equipment.
- Asked the State Department to immediately act to get Iowans stranded abroad back home.
- Held a telephone town hall with thousands of Iowans to help answer some questions and hear directly from folks.
- Participated in discussions at the State Emergency Operations Center with Governor Kim Reynolds last weekend.
- Discussed the need to work together – at federal, state, and local level – to tackle COVID-19.
- Published a column on everyone doing their part to protect seniors and fellow Iowans from COVID-19.
For a PDF of Senator Ernst’s letter to the FTC, click here.