As such, senior investors are at the greatest risk for diminished capacity, while simultaneously being one of the groups most heavily targeted by fraudsters and others seeking to exploit them.
The population of senior investors is rapidly increasing. By 2030, seniors aged 65+ will account for 18% of the nation's population. Moreover, Americans over the age of 50 currently account for 77% of financial assets in the United States. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 seniors (aged 65 and above) have been victimized by financial fraud, and seniors lose at least $2.9 billion annually to financial exploitation.
Financial exploitation of senior investors comes in many forms, but perhaps most frightening is the fact that more than half of all financial abuse in the United States is committed by family members, friends, and caregivers - and such abuse often goes unreported and unpunished. In cases where such exploitation is discovered, it is often only after large, questionable requests or aggressive power of attorney tactics. On top of this, senior investors are also heavily targeted by fraudsters who often utilize common schemes such as the Jamaican Lottery Scam, Nigerian Letter Fraud, Sweetheart Scams, Granny Scams, Contest Scams, and the Sale of Non-Existent Investment Products. Moreover, it is estimated that only 1 in 44 instances of senior financial exploitation is ever reported.
Overview of Threats Facing Senior Investors ›
It is vital that we are able to protect our senior investors. Unfortunately, the third parties that may be in a position to recognize and report this abuse (such as financial advisors, who monitor and manage their clients' money) currently lack tools and risk potential liability for acting to protect their clients. Such liability could include the breaching of privacy rules should the advisor choose to report or to submit certain financial records to Adult Protective Services organizations that would be necessary for an investigation, or liability for holding suspect transactions against a client's direction.
Washington State was the first state in the nation to have enacted a senior investor protection law that covered all financial services professionals, including broker-dealers and investment advisors. Other states have since followed suit, and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) - the association of state securities regulators - has established both a Board-level Committee (the NASAA Committee on Seniors and Diminished Capacity) to address these senior investor issues, and an Advisory Council (on which SIFMA is represented) to inform the work of the committee.
More than half of older Americans utilize financial advisors, and SIFMA is committed to finding solutions that help protect senior investors from exploitation and fraudulent practices. SIFMA has been working with industry members, academics, and state and federal lawmakers to advance policies, practices, rules, regulations, and statutes which enhance senior investor protections. These efforts include:
- State Legislation
SIFMA continues to advocate for legislation in the 50 states which provides a voluntary reporting pathway for Broker-Dealers and permits them to place temporary holds on suspect transactions to allow time for the state to investigate. Washington State, Missouri and Delaware have enacted such laws.
- Federal Legislation
SIFMA supports Federal legislation, modeled on state laws, to provide better protection for individuals with diminished capacity and provide firms with more resources to protect those individuals.
- Federal Guidance
SIFMA is also working to secure Federal guidance from regulatory agencies, which could address a number of other issues, including allowing a provider to contact a family member - or other specified third parties - when there is suspicious activity on the senior investors' account.
- APS Funding
SIFMA further supports increased funding for Adult Protective Services through the Victims of Crime Act, to ensure that Adult Protective Services organizations have the resources and training to respond to financial exploitation cases in addition to physical abuse situations.
- Collaboration with Experts
SIFMA is working with industry members and members of the scientific and academic community to share data, information and resources to develop a stronger understanding of senior investor issues and threats and create better tools to help protect aging clients.
- Senior Investor Protection Events
Throughout the year, SIFMA convenes industry and cognitive experts to discuss the important issue of senior investor protection. On September 21 in St. Petersburg, FL, SIFMA will hold an inaugural Senior Investor Protection Workshop to take a deeper-dive into the causes of cognitive decline, learn how to identify decline and exploitation, brainstorm actions to better protect their clients, and better understand the reporting process for suspected financial abuse.
SIFMA believes that the above efforts could help protect millions of dollars in senior assets annually - assets which would likely allow senior citizens to continue to care for themselves and maintain their independence throughout their retirement.
For more information on SIFMA's Senior Investor Protection initiative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.