Protecting older Americans in Tampa Bay

Last week, I was back in Florida. Stetson University’s College of Law invited me to speak at its annual Elder Consumer Protection Law Day. It was a beautiful day in Tampa Bay!

I started the day with an early morning “Think Tank” breakfast – a meeting of regional leaders coming together to discuss ideas and share approaches on the issue of elder consumer protection. This meeting brought together area elder advocacy leaders, elder law attorneys, regulators, prosecutors, and local and federal law enforcement. I described our work here at the CFPB and learned from them about the increasing number and frequency of scams and frauds which target older Americans. I learned about the excellent multidisciplinary work by – and cooperation between – many elder fraud teams in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and others, in the Tampa area. Our conversation produced the promise of an annual Think Tank on Elder Consumer Law Day.

I then toured Stetson’s Eleazer Elder Courtroom, a specially designed courtroom for older advocates, judges and witnesses. Some of these design elements featured deadened background noise to make it easier to hear, better screens to make it easier to see exhibits, and a new podium and doors to make it easier for wheelchair-bound advocates and witnesses to move around the courtroom. Most of these accommodations are invisible. They would be a big help in every courtroom for every advocate and witness.

As we all know, raising awareness about the frauds and scams facing older Americans is key to my work. I gave a local TV interview you can see on the Tampa Bay Tribune’s website. (I also have some consumer advice that will be available on the Stetson University Law School website.)

My favorite part of the day was speaking to an audience of over 150 seniors who had come for Consumer Protection Law Day. I described what the CFPB is doing on their behalf, and the work of my office, in particular. Our lively question and answer period continued long after my remarks. I listened to many stories about the epidemic rise in identity theft of seniors’ personal information. This serious concern has many seniors worried about the effect of identity theft on their credit rating, their credit card accounts and their income tax refunds. I brought their concerns back to the Bureau for a further look.

I also visited with over 40 exhibitors at the event, who provided important sources of information for seniors. In addition to handouts, seniors received important services including on-site secure document shredding drop-off, registration with the do-not-call/opt-out registration, and free annual credit report services.

This meeting gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn directly from seniors about how they are faring in this economy. It also gave me a chance to learn what the law school is doing to create courses to for young lawyers to concentrate in the area of elder law. As our senior population continues to grow over the next 20 years, this work will become more and more important.

Thank you, Stetson!

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