Arkansas lawmakers want to make it more difficult for scammers who target senior citizens.
A bill filed this week would create a reporting system that involves financial institutions and investigative authorities.
Co-sponsor of HB 1391, Rep. Carlton Wing, R-North Little Rock, said he was inspired to file the bill after his Sunday school teacher was duped.
“In the later stages of her life, she fell victim to a trick – somebody had convinced her that she had won the lottery – and what happened was a huge financial ruin as it went deeper and deeper,” Wing said.
Wing along with another co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, R-Ark., held a press conference announcing the bill’s purpose on Wednesday (March 31).
The SAFER AR Act, Safeguarding Against Financial Exploitation of Retirees for Arkansans, would create a reporting system and halt transactions.
“All along the steps, these financial institutions are aware that something fishy is happening, but they don’t exactly have a uniform way to let the right people know and the same thing with adult protective services,” Wing said. “So we have created this reporting mechanism so that they come in together and share this information and that helps us stop the bad guys soon.”
Betty Underwood, a 79-year-old Arkansan, attended the conference and shared her stories of almost being scammed, including when a contractor used her bathroom and stole what he thought was a credit card – instead it was a debit card.
“I was very fortunate, I found out about it before other things were taken and I was very fortunate,” said Underwood.
Rutledge said this bill will hopefully create a system that will allow for quicker investigations of scammers.
“We receive 2,000-3,000 calls per week here at the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, but unfortunately these crimes and fraud against Arkansas retirees and elderly are greatly underreported, only one in 44 instances are reported,” she said.
Along with investigations being launched quicker, this bill would help banks halt transactions.
“A suspicious transaction can be held – that’s step number one – and step number two is the right authorities are notified that something suspicious is taking place and it gives them time to investigate,” Wing added.
Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is the senior political reporter for KATV News and is a contributor to Talk Business & Politics.