Bill introduced to protect Minnesota senior citizens from financial scams

The 2016 Minnesota legislative session opens Tuesday and the commerce department wants to pass legislation to help combat financial fraud targeting seniors. On Monday, the commissioner talked to a group of seniors about the dangers and scams.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman explained that seniors on the whole are one of the most vulnerable groups out there. He said scammers are coming at them from every angle, often from overseas.

Rothman met directly with residents at the brand new Polar Ridge Senior Living Center in North St. Paul – “Everyday seniors are scammed or defrauded,” Rothman told them.

The commissioner talked bluntly about the risks, telling the room the scammers have put giant bullseyes on the backs of the men and women gathered there.

"They're going to scam senior citizens. Why? Because it's easier than robbing a bank. I'll put it right out there and be honest with you,” he said.

The commerce department is hoping these face-to-face meetings help educate – and in the long run, curb what it calls an ugly and growing trend of senior financial abuse.

Evelyn Reichert was one of the unlucky ones.  She hung up her phone when someone pretended to be a grandson in desperate need of cash – “He said he was in an accident and needed money to get home,” Reichert said.

Reichert said she was “freaked out” when the scammer asked her to send him money.

The commerce department is touring the state this year, pushing legislation it hopes can get to the governor. It's been dubbed the “Safe Senior Protection Act.” The law would put pressure on financial institutions to better spot questionable account transfers and slow down transactions in an effort to stop fraud before it's too late.

“Senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable,” Rothman said. “They have the greatest amount of wealth. And people doing frauds and scams know it."

The legislation was introduced last year, but didn't go anywhere. The commerce commissioner now says the bill has been refocused; he's hoping it will gain some traction when the session gets underway Monday.