This week we celebrate National Senior Citizens Day, a day to show our great appreciation for the wisdom and experience that seniors bring to our families and communities, but also one we must reaffirm our responsibility to help seniors protect their financial future.
A recent survey the North American Securities Administrators Association conducted of our members — the local securities “cops on the beat” fighting against financial fraud — has confirmed that financial exploitation against seniors remains a top problem. Four in five of the regulators who responded to our survey identified the Silent Generation (age 70 and older) as most vulnerable to financial fraud.
Senior citizens’ finances represent a lifetime of hard work and planning ahead. Taking care of seniors means we must also take care to protect the life savings on which they depend. Our survey also found that almost every one of the regulators who responded (97%) believes that the majority of senior financial fraud cases are only detected once they have caused serious problems.
We, however, cannot be content to punish those who scam seniors, we must be committed to catching them before they get the chance to prey on our most vulnerable citizens. As the regulators closest to the investing public, we can step in quickly to help. But our ability to help declines when we are alerted too late after the fraud has occurred or the money is gone.
While most survey respondents (97%) feel awareness of the danger for senior financial fraud has increased over the past year, few feel the problem is actually decreasing and 3 in 10 (29%) even say that cases of such fraud are on the rise. Awareness alone is clearly not enough. Vigilance from all those who support seniors and help them navigate the financial questions of their golden years — family, advisors, industry, caregivers and regulators — must also be met with concrete action and tools that help prevent fraud.