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


JUN 15, 2023

RICHMOND – Each year, seniors lose billions of dollars as a result of financial exploitation perpetrated by friends, family, caregivers, financial professionals or strangers. The loss to individual victims of senior financial exploitation averages tens of thousands of dollars.

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), the State Corporation Commission encourages seniors, caregivers, financial professionals and all Virginians to be aware of the signs of elder financial abuse and to know how to report it.

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’ investment 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. Among the seniors most vulnerable to such financial exploitation are those who have disabilities, rely on others for help or are socially isolated.

“Seniors are increasingly being targeted by scammers,” said Doug Joyce, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). “Social isolation, a health crisis and increased reliance on the internet for many daily activities can make seniors increasingly vulnerable.”

In some cases, scammers may target their victims using personal details gleaned from obituaries and social media posts. Some may exploit established relationships within a senior’s social and support groups to become more involved in their life.

Possible red flags of senior financial abuse include the following:

  • 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;
  • Unusual or sudden changes to beneficiary designations or to legal or financial documents involving investments, such as power of attorney, wills, trusts, retirement accounts or insurance policies, or documents which suddenly go missing;
  • 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.

Joyce encourages Virginians who suspect they or a loved one are the victims of investment fraud or possible senior financial exploitation to contact the Division by telephone (in Richmond at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945), or by email at SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov. Additional information is available on 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 has developed resources to help identify investment fraud and know how to report suspected elder financial abuse. These resources are available at www.nasaa.org/1723/senior-investor-resource-center or at serveourseniors.org/.

Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141