House Unanimously Approves Axne Bill Aimed at Protecting Consumers and Investors From COVID-19 Fraud
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously advanced bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03), a member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, to better protect Americans from COVID-19 fraud.
The COVID-19 Fraud Prevention Act, originally introduced by Rep. Axne in May 2020, would create a new Consumer and Investor Fraud Working Group to help guard against counterfeit, deceptive, and malicious attempts to take advantage of Americans, as well as assist those who have been victims of fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An unprecedented health crisis and economic turmoil are unfortunately not the only burdens that Iowans have faced this past year – we’ve also seen an uptick in attempts to mislead or rip off folks, including some who were already in vulnerable financial positions,” said Rep. Axne. “This is unacceptable, and we need to ensure that the agencies set up to protect consumers are working as efficiently as possible to track down bad actors and protect Americans from fraud. I’m proud that the House has again overwhelmingly passed my commonsense bill to guard Iowa’s families and communities.”
The legislation mandates the Consumer and Investor Fraud Working Group be created as a joint collaboration between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB), and also directs them to coordinate with other federal and state agencies.
In the previous Congress, the House passed this legislation by a unanimous vote.
As of May 13th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recorded more than 290,000 reports of coronavirus-related fraud, for a total loss of more than $430 million, including more than $1.5 million in Iowa. These include attempts to collect financial information by pretending to be the government, market false medical cures or prescriptions, and promises to help reduce outstanding debt.
The SEC has also issued more than 30 trading suspensions for stocks believed to have inaccurate or unreliable information in connection with COVID-19 and has filed several enforcement actions against companies making false and misleading claims related to COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began, the CFPB received over 550,000 consumer complaints, including reports of attempted collection of debts not owed, false statements, and other instances of scams or fraud.