SCC reminds Virginians of senior financial exploitation on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Each year, seniors lose significant amounts of money due to financial exploitation. Many cases of financial abuse are never reported, which can happen when seniors or those helping them don’t recognize the signs of financial abuse.
Financial abuse can take many forms. Identity theft; online and telemarketing scams; unauthorized use of checking accounts, debit and credit cards, and the abuse of legally granted powers for individual assistance are just a few examples. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends or caregivers, court-appointed guardians, financial professionals or others.
On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the State Corporation Commission reminds financial professionals and all Virginians to look for signs of elder financial abuse.
“Senior financial exploitation can happen anywhere, any time and to anyone,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. “Perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. For many seniors, social isolation and increased reliance on the internet for many daily activities only compound the problem.”
Thomas encourages Virginians to recognize the warning signs of senior financial exploitation and steps that can be taken to report such abuse. Some red flags that may signal financial abuse are as follows:
- Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
- Unusual activity in bank or investment accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals or transfers between accounts;
- Sudden changes to beneficiary designations or to legal or financial documents such as power of attorney, wills, trusts, retirement accounts or insurance policies, or suddenly missing documents;
- Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash or written as “gifts;” unusual loans, or disappearance of assets, valuables or securities;
- Fear of friends or family members, or a sudden change in feelings toward them;
- A lack of knowledge by a senior about their financial resources or their reluctance to discuss financial matters, and
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.
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 of Securities and Retail Franchising at 804-371-9051 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945, by email at SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov, or on its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments.
The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which the SCC Securities Division is a member, also has developed resources to help identify fraud and to provide information on how to report suspected elder financial abuse. These resources are available on NASAA’s “Serve Our Seniors” website at serveourseniors.org/about/investors/.