SCC urges awareness of investment fraud among seniors due to increased pandemic isolation
The State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division) reminds Virginians that extended isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic may create a perfect storm for financial exploitation of senior citizens.
Each year, senior citizens lose billions of dollars to financial fraud, with the loss to individual victims averaging tens of thousands of dollars. “Social isolation has long been a leading factor contributing to the financial exploitation of older investors,” said Division Director Ron Thomas. “Social distancing and the unprecedented quarantines designed to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus have greatly increased social isolation for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation. Perpetrators may be strangers, family members, trusted friends and financial professionals or others.”
Financial abuse can happen any time, but perpetrators often strike when senior citizens are most vulnerable, such as during a health crisis or after the death of a loved one. Scammers often gather personal details from obituaries and social media posts and use this information to target their victims. Some perpetrators even will exploit established relationships within seniors’ social and support groups to become more involved in their lives.
Thomas encourages Virginians to be aware of the following warning signs indicative of senior financial abuse:
Surrendering control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver
Fear of or sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members
A lack of knowledge about their financial status or reluctance to discuss financial matters
Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, a will, trust or beneficiary designations
Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash, unusual loans or disappearance of assets, valuables or securities
Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
In-person visits may not yet be possible due to the pandemic. However, to reduce the likelihood of isolation and financial exploitation, Thomas urges Virginians to stay in touch with older family members, friends and neighbors by phone, text, email, video calls or other means. “Remind seniors that scammers follow the headlines and may try to exploit the pandemic. Make them aware of the red flags of fraud, which are often the same regardless of the type of scam,” he said.
Thomas asks Virginians who suspect 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. For more information, visit the Division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/pages/SecuritiesRetail-Franchising or the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at www.nasaa.org/1723/senior-investor-resource-center/.