RICHMOND — Seniors remain among the groups most at risk of falling prey to investment fraud. Virginia securities regulators warn seniors to remain vigilant when looking for places to park their hard-earned money.
Low interest rates and rising costs for medical insurance, prescription drugs and basic living expenses continue to put a financial squeeze on seniors and others living on fixed incomes, said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. This creates opportunities for con artists touting fraudulent financial schemes. "Their products and pitches sound tempting to many seniors who have watched their retirement accounts dwindle," Thomas said.
A recent survey of state, provincial and territorial securities regulators, conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), suggests that more needs to be done to protect seniors from financial fraud. The survey showed that while awareness regarding investment fraud against seniors is increasing, the fraud itself is not decreasing. Among the tools securities regulators are using to protect seniors from financial exploitation are outreach, education, enforcement and stronger legislation.
Results of the NASAA survey indicate that most cases of fraud against seniors go undetected until it is too late to prevent serious problems. The survey also suggests the need for greater efforts on the part of broker-dealers and investment advisors to protect seniors from financial fraud.
Thomas urges seniors to be aware of the signs of investment fraud and take control of their financial health. "If something sounds too good to be true it almost always is," he said. He encourages Virginia’s seniors to contact the Division of Securities and Retail Franchising with any questions they may have about an investment. The Securities Division actively promotes investor education by offering free presentations and written materials on such topics as investing and avoiding fraud. NASAA also offers information geared to senior investors, caregivers, policymakers and the financial services industry through its Serve Our Seniors website at serveourseniors.org.
Thomas offers the following tips to help seniors protect their retirement assets:
- Check out cold callers and other strangers touting extraordinary deals. Information on investment salespeople and firms is available from your state securities agency.
- Beware of anyone who suggests putting your money into something you don’t understand or who urges you to place everything in his or her hands.
- Be leery of individuals who prey on your fears regarding a secure retirement.
- Don’t make rash financial decisions. Arm yourself with information before you make any investment decisions.
- Monitor your investments and ask tough questions. Insist on regular written and oral reports. Watch for signs of excessive or unauthorized trading of your funds. Beware of anyone who impedes your ability to pull out your principal or profits from an investment.
- Don’t let embarrassment or fear keep your from reporting investment fraud.
For more information, contact the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising in Richmond at (804) 371-9051 or toll-free (in Virginia only) at 1-800-552-7945 or visit its website at https://www.scc.virginia.gov/srf/index.aspx.