106th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 612

To protect the public, especially seniors, against telemarketing fraud, including fraud over the Internet, and to authorize an educational campaign to improve senior citizens' ability to protect themselves against telemarketing fraud.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 4, 1999

Mr. WEYGAND (for himself, Mr. ABERCROMBIE, Mr. GEJDENSON, Ms. KILPATRICK, Mr. ROMERO-BARCELO, Ms. NORTON, Mr. UNDERWOOD, Mr. LAFALCE, Mr. NEAL of Massachusetts, Mr. FORD, Mr. BALDACCI, Mrs. THURMAN, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Mr. CROWLEY, Mr. GREEN of Texas, and Mr. SMITH of Washington) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To protect the public, especially seniors, against telemarketing fraud, including fraud over the Internet, and to authorize an educational campaign to improve senior citizens' ability to protect themselves against telemarketing fraud.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

TITLE I--PROTECTION AGAINST SCAMS ON SENIORS

SEC. 101. SHORT TITLE.

    This title may be cited as the 'Protection Against Scams on Seniors Act of 1999'.

SEC. 102. FINDINGS.

    The Congress finds that--

      (1) telemarketing fraud costs consumers nearly $40,000,000,000 each year;

      (2) nearly 10 percent of the 140,000 telemarketing firms in the United States engage in fraud;

      (3) senior citizens are often the target of telemarketing fraud;

      (4) fraudulent telemarketers compile into 'mooch lists' the names of potentially vulnerable consumers;

      (5) according to the American Association of Retired Persons, 56 percent of the names on 'mooch lists' are individuals age 50 or older;

      (6) the Department of Justice has undertaken successful investigations and prosecutions of telemarketing fraud through various operations, including 'Operation Disconnect', 'Operation Senior Sentinel', and 'Operation Upload';

      (7) the Federal Bureau of Investigation has helped provide resources to assist organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons to operate outreach programs designed to warn senior citizens whose names appear on confiscated 'mooch lists';

      (8) the Administration on Aging was formed, in part, to provide senior citizens with the resources, information, and assistance their special circumstances require;

      (9) the Administration on Aging has a system in place to effectively inform senior citizens of the dangers of telemarketing fraud; and

      (10) senior citizens need to be warned of the dangers of telemarketing fraud before they become victims.

SEC. 103. PURPOSE.

    It is the purpose of this title through education and outreach to protect senior citizens from the dangers of telemarketing fraud and to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of fraudulent telemarketers.

SEC. 104. DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION.

    (a) IN GENERAL- The Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Assistant Secretary for Aging, shall publicly disseminate in each State information designed to educate senior citizens and raise awareness about the dangers of telemarketing fraud.

    (b) INFORMATION- In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary shall--

      (1) inform senior citizens of the prevalence of telemarketing fraud targeted against them;

      (2) inform senior citizens of how telemarketing fraud works;

      (3) inform senior citizens of how to identify telemarketing fraud;

      (4) inform senior citizens of how to protect themselves against telemarketing fraud, including an explanation of the dangers of providing bank account, credit card, or other financial or personal information over the telephone to unsolicited callers;

      (5) inform senior citizens of how to report suspected attempts at telemarketing fraud;

      (6) inform senior citizens of their consumer protection rights under Federal law; and

      (7) provide such other information as the Secretary considers necessary to protect senior citizens against fraudulent telemarketing.

    (c) MEANS OF DISSEMINATION- The Secretary shall determine the means to disseminate information under this section. In making such determination, the Secretary shall consider--

      (1) public service announcements;

      (2) a printed manual or pamphlet;

      (3) an Internet website; and

      (4) telephone outreach to individuals whose names appear on 'mooch lists' confiscated from fraudulent telemarketers.

    (d) PRIORITY- In disseminating information under this section, the Secretary shall give priority to areas with high concentrations of senior citizens.

SEC. 105. AUTHORITY TO ACCEPT GIFTS.

    The Secretary may accept, use, and dispose of unconditional gifts, bequests, or devises of services or property, both real and personal, in order to carry out this title.

SEC. 106. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

    There are authorized to be appropriated $10,000,000 for fiscal year 1999 and such sums as may be necessary for succeeding fiscal years.

SEC. 107. DEFINITION.

    For purposes of this title, the term 'State' includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

TITLE II--TELEMARKETING FRAUD OVER THE INTERNET

SEC. 201. EXTENSION OF CRIMINAL FRAUD STATUTE TO INTERNET.

      (1) striking 'or television communication' and inserting 'television, or Internet communication'; and

      (2) adding at the end thereof the following: 'For purposes of this section, the term 'Internet' means collectively the myriad of computer and telecommunications facilities, including equipment and operating software, which comprise the interconnected world-wide network of networks that employ the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or any predecessor or successor protocols to such protocol, to communicate information of all kinds by wire or radio.'.

SEC. 202. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION SANCTIONS.

    The Federal Trade Commission shall initiate a rulemaking proceeding to set forth the application of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45) and other statutory provisions within its jurisdiction to deceptive acts or practices in or affecting the commerce of the United States in connection with the promotion, advertisement, offering for sale, or sale of goods or services through use of the Internet, including the initiation, transmission, and receipt of unsolicited commercial electronic mail. For purposes of this section, the term 'Internet' means collectively the myriad of computer and telecommunications facilities, including equipment and operating software, which comprise the interconnected world-wide network of networks that employ the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or any predecessor or successor protocols to such protocol, to communicate information of all kinds by wire or radio.
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