There is a need for strong protection of the elderly investing population. About one out of every five Americans 65 years and older has been a victim of financial abuse. The elderly are estimated to lose up to $2.9 billion per year from scams. In fact, these figures are likely lower than the actual incidence of fraud since only reported accounts of frauds are considered and seniors are “less likely” to report being scammed.
Elders are abused by a variety of persons including family members, caregivers, and scam artists. Unfortunately, financial advisers, fiduciaries (such as agents under power of attorney and guardians), and brokers also have known to take advantage of the elderly. Usually the person is already in a position of trust or is able to acquire a high level of trust due to the diminished capacity of the victim.
Brokerage firms are in the perfect position to recognize the signs elder abuse and elder fraud. Firms should be able to recognize diminished capacity and dementia, decreased ability to handle finances, questionable purchases or transfers, and the inability of their clients to understand or comprehend their financial assets. When there are reasonable grounds to believe a firm client is being financially exploited the member firm must report potential exploitation to proper authorities and otherwise hold transactions pending review and determination.