Editor's note: There have been 75 bills signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in 2019. That’s just a fraction of the more than 2,800 bills introduced in the state House or Senate this legislative session. This ongoing series explores some of the proposals circulating at the Capitol that haven’t gotten much attention elsewhere.
HARRISBURG – Legislation awaiting action in the state House would require the Attorney General to alert the Department of Aging whenever investigators learn that a telemarketer is targeting seniors.
The move comes as lawmakers increasingly look for ways to better protect consumers as phones across the state are besieged by telemarketing robocalls.
Pennsylvanians made an average of 655 complaints about robocalls a day in 2018, according to federal data -- an annual total of 239,133 complaints.
Only five other states had more — California (747,829), Florida (427,404), Texas (402,316), New York (348,615) and Illinois (252,935), according to the Federal Trade Commission. Adjusted for complaints per 100,000 residents, Pennsylvania still ranked high, coming in 14th.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Meghan Schroeder, R-Bucks County, to help protect older Pennsylvanians from telemarketing scams was unanimously voted out of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee this morning at the state Capitol.
House Bill 1061 would help to improve interagency communication concerning suspected cases of elder financial exploitation. Specifically, the bill would require the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to notify the state Department of Aging of any investigations and enforcement actions targeting telemarketers when those actions involve a consumer who is 60 years of age or older.
“Under current law, the attorney general is required to submit an annual report to the General Assembly detailing investigations and enforcement actions taken in the preceding fiscal year,” Schroeder said.
Asked to provide the most recent annual report for this story, the Attorney General’s office provided a report released a document from last November that detailed the department’s efforts in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
That report noted that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Attorney General’s office opened six investigations related to telemarketing violations, filed two legal actions and resolved one outstanding legal action filed during a prior fiscal year.
Jacklin Rhoads, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro, said the attorney general’s office gave its supports to Schroeder’s bill after it was amended in committee to include language allowing investigators in the attorney general’s office to withhold information they deem confidential.
“We communicate regularly with other state agencies to coordinate efforts in investigations, litigation, and education,” Rhoads said.
Schroeder’s legislation is intended to make sure that the Department of Aging is aware of complaints to enable state officials to coordinate with local protective services, she said.
This may “prevent financial exploitation, such as scams and sweepstakes fraud,” she said.
Senior citizens are prime targets for many kinds of consumer fraud including identity theft and charity, telemarketing and sweepstakes fraud, Schroeder said. In fact, financial exploitation is the fastest-growing category of elder abuse in the Commonwealth, she said.