Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin, the state’s top securities regulator, is warning investors to beware of attempts to bilk them of their hard-earned funds that can be especially common around the holidays.
Beyond that, Galvin points to holiday visits with friends and family as opportunities to “check in on loved ones and to intervene if you spot any red flags of financial exploitation.”
Among the hazards of the season are affinity fraud; senior financial fraud, abuse and exploitation; tax scams and government impersonators; the “grandparent scam”; and the need to be wary when evaluating one’s own finances as an end-of-year checkup, lest the investor be taken in by phony investment schemes in the guise of new opportunities.
Affinity fraud occurs when scammers target people who can persuade others to invest in a scheme that’s supposed to be legitimate. However, such schemes just sucker people in, often by Ponzi schemes that pay later investors with the proceeds from earlier ones — but with far smaller payouts than were promised.
Seniors sadly make good targets for fraud and abuse. Galvin says in the report that holiday visits to relatives one seldom sees can provide opportunities to make sure they’re all right. “If an older adult is burdened by taking financial responsibility for other adults, has given power of attorney to another person, and/or seems uncomfortable with financial decisions others are making on their behalf, these may be signs of a problem,” he cautions.
Crooks impersonating government personnel might “threaten to send the police or federal agents if their demands for payments aren’t met, and they often ask for payment in the form of gift cards” — something no government official would ever do and a major red flag that something is very wrong.
And then there’s the “grandparent scam,” in which the scammer claims in a phone call to the grandparent to be a grandchild traveling overseas who has gotten into some kind of trouble and begs the grandparent to send emergency funds. Scammers track families on the Web to see who’s traveling where, and often sound legitimate in these calls — and grandparents are more likely to respond without checking because of the supposed urgency of the situation.
Take time over the holidays to think and to check out any claims of great investment deals, emergencies and other potentially damaging events before responding, and turn to the agencies in question if approached about resolving a problem by sending gift cards.