Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty, through the courts.

April 10, 2012

Financial Scammers Prey on Seniors (USA)

April 7, 2012

As the population ages, legal actions taken in response to the financial abuse of older adults are proliferating. But family members can take steps to protect an elder's nest egg.
According to the North American Securities Administrators Association, state securities regulators issued 1,241 enforcement actions—including criminal complaints and cease-and-desist orders—involving investments sold to those ages 50 or older in 2010, the latest year for which data are available. That number was more than double the 506 actions taken in 2009.
Jack Herstein, president of the association and assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance, says state regulators expect the number of enforcement actions to continue to climb, in part because "complaints are rising."
When it comes to investment scams, older people are attractive targets in part because they generally have more savings than their younger counterparts. Those who suffer from loneliness and cognitive disabilities can be especially vulnerable, experts say.
Fueling the trend are today's ultralow interest rates and the anemic investment returns many have earned over the past decade. Worried about keeping up with the cost of living, retirees are more willing than they used to be to reach for higher returns, in part by investing in unregulated investments, Mr. Herstein says.
Scam artists are capitalizing on that by peddling fraudulent securities that promise attractive returns. State enforcement actions involving unregistered securities, including promissory notes and private placements, outnumber those that involve conventional securities by five to one, the association says.
 Other enforcement actions are filed over legitimate investment products that are sold to people for whom they aren't suitable, says Mr. Herstein. Examples include annuities that levy "surrender" fees on investors who seek to liquidate their investments within a set number of years of the purchase date.
"Someone who is 85 should not be sold a variable annuity with a 15-year surrender charge. That's not suitable," he says.
According to a MetLife Mature Market Institute study, elderly victims of financial abuse lost $2.9 billion in 2010, up 12% from $2.6 billion in 2008.
Institute director Sandra Timmermann says actual losses may be higher "because so many of these cases go unreported."
Ms. Timmermann says adult children can help prevent problems by encouraging parents to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry (888-382-1222), which can help limit calls from telemarketers. Those who join may be more likely to hang up on cold callers, she says.
One way to detect problems is to monitor a parent's bank, brokerage and credit-card statements. "You might volunteer to help a parent go through the bills," Ms. Timmermann suggests.
Signs that something may be amiss include unpaid bills, an increase in the use of ATM or credit cards, or disappearing valuables.

Those who suspect financial abuse can contact their local area agency on aging (online at www.eldercare.gov or by phone at 800-677-1116) for a referral to adult protective services. They can also contact their local police department and state securities regulator.

SOURCE:      The Wall Street Journal

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Any Charges Reported on this blog are Merely Accusations and the Defendants are Presumed Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty.

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