Senior financial fraud is on the rise with most cases going undetected, according to a just-released survey of state securities regulators.

The 2017 Pulse survey on seniors and financial exploitation conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association found that while 97% of state securities regulators believe that most cases of senior financial fraud go undetected before serious harm is done, the same percentage of regulators also say there’s greater awareness of senior investment fraud and exploitation now than a year ago.

That being said, virtually no respondents have seen a drop-off in the cases or complaints involving such fraud, with 29% saying their agency has seen an increase in cases or complaints involving senior financial fraud or exploitation.

Three-fourths of respondents said broker-dealers and investment advisors can do more to help prevent senior fraud.

“It is imperative that we detect and prevent senior financial fraud before criminals who prey on our most vulnerable citizens steal from and devastate them,” said NASAA President and Minnesota Commissioner of Commerce Mike Rothman, in a statement. “The clear message from our NASAA members, who are the securities regulators on the front lines, is that we need everyone to step up and apply greater resources to stop financial fraud against seniors.”

The poll, conducted internally of NASAA members from July 24 to Aug. 4, also found that more than three-fourths of regulators implementing NASAA’s Model Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation were able to prevent senior financial exploitation by stopping the distribution of funds to fraudsters.        

NASAA approved the model legislation last January.

States that passed the Model Act or similar legislation or regulations include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

As of May 1, 2017, states that saw bills or regulations similar to the Model Act introduced in their legislatures include Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.

A survey of broker-dealers conducted by NASAA in June found that BDs are taking steps to fight elder financial abuse, with 90% having either a dedicated team or at least some type of internal process for addressing senior issues and 95% offering training on signs of such abuse.

The broker-dealer firms included in the June survey reported nearly 2,300 cases concerning possible financial abuse or exploitation of seniors to outside authorities in 2015.

The report also found that seniors were at higher risk of fraud, as most of the senior abuse cases reported (45%) involved customers age 81 to 90. This finding was confirmed by NASAA’s Pulse Survey, in which regulators overwhelmingly identified the “Silent Generation,” ages 70 and older, as the most vulnerable to financial fraud.

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