On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, SCC Offers Reminders About Senior Financial Exploitation

Financial

JUN 15, 2022

RICHMOND – On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), the State Corporation Commission reminds financial professionals and all Virginians to be on the lookout for signs of elder financial abuse and to know how to report it.

Each year, seniors lose billions of dollars as a result of financial exploitation, with losses averaging tens of thousands of dollars per victim.

Although financial abuse can take many forms, senior citizens (and those around them) should be aware of exploitation efforts involving the sale of investments, as well as attempts to access seniors’ investments accounts. Such efforts can include online or telemarketing scams selling fraudulent investments, or someone trying to gain control over a senior citizen’s investment accounts for their own personal gain. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends or caregivers, financial professionals or others. Seniors who have disabilities, rely on others for help or live alone may be particularly susceptible to financial exploitation.

“Seniors are increasingly being targeted by scammers,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Social isolation and increased reliance on the internet for many daily activities can compound the problem," he said. In some cases, scammers may target their victims using personal details gleaned from obituaries and social media posts. Some perpetrators may exploit established relationships within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.

Some red flags of financial abuse could be as follows:

  • Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents;
  • Unusual activity in investment or bank accounts including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals or transfers between accounts;
  • Sudden changes to beneficiary designations or legal or financial documents involving investments, such as power of attorney, wills, trusts, retirement accounts or insurance policies, or suddenly missing documents;
  • Unexplained financial activities, such as the disappearance or “gifting” of assets, valuables or securities;
  • Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members; and
  • A lack of knowledge by a senior about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters.

Thomas urges Virginians who suspect they or a loved one are the victims of investment fraud or possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Division at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945. For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments. The North American Securities Administrators Association, of which the Division is a member, also offers resources on its website at www.nasaa.org/investor-education/senior-investor-resource-center or at serveourseniors.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141