Most stockbrokers and other financial service representatives genuinely care about their clients. Unfortunately, there are some in the mix who see an elderly client as a target-rich environment, and the abuse frequently isn’t detected until it’s too late. They take advantage of a client who may not completely understand what’s being discussed or what they may be signing.
Financial abuse of the elderly is the biggest form of elder abuse, and it’s getting bigger. An estimated $2.9 billion is stolen every year from elders. Our attorneys work with victims to recover losses from financial advisors, trustees and family members who engage in misconduct.
Most people believe that only wealthier seniors are targeted for elder financial fraud, but any senior can be targeted. Elders who are not financially well off can lose everything. Unfortunately, our lawyers have handled cases involving massive losses that steal a person’s senior years. This is a growing problem that is only expected to get worse as the “baby boomer” generation gets older.
Elder Financial Fraud Lawyers
Whether you’re a new investor or an experienced one, it’s still possible for a stockbroker to commit elder fraud, including:
- Making clearly unsuitable investments
- Performing trades on your behalf without your authorization
- Misrepresentation of risk of an investment
- Over-concentrating your portfolio into one type of investment
- Adding “alternative” investments without disclosing risks
Protect yourself by:
- Always examining your financial account statements for any irregularities or anything that’s unclear
- Avoid being pressured into signing anything without understanding what’s involved—don’t be afraid to say “no.”
- Be aware of unusual increases in trading or other activity—unauthorized trading is common
- Build relationships with your bankers, attorneys and other professionals who may be able to detect fraud quickly
- Watch for:
- Excessive trading, especially one where commissions are involved
- “Churning,” where a stockbroker conducts continual transactions that generate fees but deplete your account
- A stockbroker asks to take control of your account
- Question anything you don’t understand, even if you have to speak to an attorney
Before you invest any money with a stockbroker whether you have a long-standing relationship or not, it’s important to ask questions to make sure you understand the potential stock or other financial instrument. If your stockbroker doesn’t adequately answer your questions, reconsider your investment.
Should you just need some help, FINRA offers the Securities Helpline for Seniors who want to ask questions about their accounts from an objective opinion. Assistance is available from 9am to 5pm Eastern time at 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577). You can also learn more about a stockbroker or investment advisor you’re considering with their BrokerCheck tool, which is also free and available 24/7 online, or by phone at (800) 289-9999.
Signs Of Elder Financial Fraud
If you are a family member of an investor, watch for signs such as:
- New brokerage accounts with a previously unknown co-signer
- Sudden changes of brokerage companies
- Changes in investment styles
- Stockbroker control of a customer’s account
- A newly created power of attorney for a brokerage or bank account
- Unexpected changes in estate planning: wills, trusts, powers of attorney
- When an elderly person develops a new, close relationship with someone who offers to handle their finances and investments
- The elderly person has made a new investment that he or she doesn’t understand, appears to be unsuitable, especially those with early withdrawal penalties or excessive fees.
- Any new and unusual changes to accounts that are uncertain
Why aren’t these cases reported? Many elders are afraid of not only shame and embarrassment, but of retaliation from the stockbroker as well as family members. Dishonest stockbrokers depend on that fear and silence to continue their misconduct, especially with clients who have cognitive disorders such as dementia.
Closely examining all financial statements regularly—yours or your loved one’s—helps you stay current on investment accounts as well as bank and other accounts.
Resources For Seniors
In addition to FINRA, the Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC) also has a range of resources on its website, starting with their Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. Call them toll-free at 1-800-732-0330. This whitepaper from the SEC goes into detail about how the SEC works to protect senior investors.
The Elder Protection Financial Network is a nonprofit based in Petaluma, CA, that fights elder financial abuse, offers training to employees of financial institutions to recognize signs of and report potential financial abuse of the elderly.
Silver Law Group – Elder Financial Fraud Attorneys
Taking financial advantage of an elder is a crime, and most states have laws against it. If you or a loved one have been a victim of financial elder abuse, you can fight back, but you must act immediately.
Our attorneys are frequently retained by other lawyers representing a trust or estate when misconduct by a financial professional is identified. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for victims of elder financial fraud and abuse by stockbrokers, financial advisors and registered investment advisors.
Silver Law Group represents investors in securities and investment fraud cases. Our lawyers are admitted to practice in New York and Florida and represent investors nationwide to help recover investment losses due to stockbroker misconduct. If you have any questions about how your account has been handled, call to speak with an experienced securities attorney. Most cases are handled on a contingent fee basis, meaning that you won’t owe us until we recover your money for you. Contact us today and let us know how we can help.