Hon. Ellen Rosenblum
The transition to an all-digital world is bad for elders — very bad.
Here is just today's plea for help for an elder, the latest edition of something I’m seeing more and more. An astonishing amount more in just the last few years.
A friend of mine has come to me because her elderly aunt has been scammed. Essentially, as I understand it, someone hit her with ransom ware. Then somehow got her on the phone. They said they were ransoming her computer and could use it to drain her bank account. She ultimately was taken for 38k. She is 71 and not particularly savvy. She wants Bank of America to review the charges and reverse or refund them as fraudulent. My guess is the actual scammers are out of reach.
As I understand it, this has been reported to the police and an initial request has been submitted to the bank and denied. She is currently considering submitting a letter to appeal that decision and request reconsideration.
Our laws are inadequate for this. If someone knocked Grandma on the head, she could get some help from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund. But because they used her computer and her phone to scam her, Crime Victims Fund won’t even talk to her.
Global internet and phone means every criminal in the world is just as close to and just as able to scam Grandma as the criminals in her town.
We need to devise means by which elders can be protected from these scams, which are proliferating wildly (exponentially).
The cost of running these scams is in the pennies range and the rewards are often in the tens of thousands of dollars.
And the risk to the scammers is zero. Absolutely zero.
We need a huge public education campaign, funded by the banks and credit unions that make this sort of thing possible and that profit greatly by elimination of human staff and moving all account management functions into the Wild Wild West of the lawless internet.
More importantly, we need to require depositary institutions to offer special higher-protection accounts, where consumers can get the main benefits of online accounts but without having to bear all the risk of being able to transfer their nest-egg to the scammers with a mouse-click or phone-check.
These higher-protection accounts would have guardrails built into their settings so that an elder would be unable to make payments to a new payee above a nominal amount without getting the bank’s security personnel involved, so that Grandma is not able to send off her nest egg in the middle of the night to the voice on the phone.
Please work with the legislature to devise laws to help protect Oregon’s seniors from the dark side of the technological wonderland they’ve found themselves in.
Just sent the email below to Attorney General Rosenblum. I invite anyone who wants to second the motion to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice