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Senators: FTC Should Provide Seniors More Help with Virus Scams

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has teamed with almost three dozen other senators, including Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, to push the Federal Trade Commission to do more to protect seniors from coronavirus-related scams. 



The letter came the same day (Thursday, March 26) that FTC chairman Joseph Simons outlined the steps the FTC is taking to combat coronavirus scammers, while pointing out the FTC has to be mindful of good faith efforts to promote helpful products. 

The FTC has issued warnings about such scams, but the senators urged Simons to better inform seniors about the scams and help the victims understand what they can do after they have been scammed.  

“At this time of heightened public fears, reports have highlighted that scams pertaining to the coronavirus are increasing, and that seniors—arguably the most vulnerable population to both the coronavirus and bad actors—have been targeted with calls telling them that the COVID-19 vaccination is ready when no such treatment currently exists,” the senators wrote to Simons.

They acknowledged the warnings, but signaled more was needed.

"Although the FTC has sent warning letters to seven sellers of fraudulent COVID-19 treatments, we are concerned that further action is needed to protect the financial well-being of seniors—who lose an estimated $3 billion annually from financial scams," they wrote. 

Klobuchar and company want answers to the following questions: 

Related: Sen. Warner, Blumenthal Slam Google Over 'Predatory' Coronavirus Ads

  1. "What efforts is the FTC currently undertaking to educate seniors about COVID-19-related fraud and how to protect themselves? 
  2. "What additional measures is the FTC planning to better protect seniors and assist them should they become victims of COVID-19-related fraud? 
  3. "How is the FTC working with other federal agencies to combat COVID-19-related scams? 
  4. "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?" 

In a statement Thursday, though not in response to the letter, Simons said the FTC was hard at work to combat coronavirus scams, but he also said that "at all times, good faith efforts undertaken to provide needed goods and services to consumers will be taken into account in making enforcement decisions." 

In a related move, New York State Attorney General Letitia James Thursday (March 26) ordered a handful of air purifier companies to stop marketing their products as tools "that can prevent" the spread of the virus when numerous health departments have determined that the disease spreads via respiratory droplets, not air transmission, James said. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.