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Gillibrand bill fights back against phone, online scams targeting seniors

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing legislation to help seniors who have been financially exploited by phone and online scams. Scammers hack personal information and trick seniors into giving them money.

Freddie Burton of Syracuse kept receiving calls from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service saying if she did not immediately pay them, the FBI was coming for her.   

“I thought about it, I called the IRS, they said oh no we don’t make calls like that we’ll send a letter," Burton said. "So it’s a scam.”

Even Gillibrand’s family has been scammed.

“It happened to my aunt," Gillibrand said. "She got hit with the IRS scam. She paid the money. She was so embarrassed. She never told my mother. She was just mortified that she could be taken advantage of.”

Gillibrand's bill would train people to spot scams and make them easier to report. It would create a national hotline and give more resources to law enforcement to hold seminars about the scammers.

“They are very sophisticated and they mine your information," Gillibrand said. "They’ll hack your computer. They’ll find out your grandkids names. They’ll find out how old they are. They’ll steal your identity, they’ll steal your information, get your bank account numbers. Whatever it takes to steal your money they will do. It’s something I think we have to work on because once that money is sent, it’s gone. It’s gone forever.” 

Gillibrand said more than 25 million Americans have fallen victim to these scams and central New York seniors have been robbed of $3 million.

"They've hacked all our computers, so they can get your phone number," Gillibrand said. "They know you're a senior. They might know if you live alone. They might know your schedule. It's really a very sophisticated operation. I've heard that through these schemes they can make millions of dollars a day because they are making calls across the country every day."

Tom Magnarelli is a freelance reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area.