Securities Helpline for Seniors Helps Prevent Fraud
Last updated 1/22/2016 at 3:50pm | View PDF
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released a year-end report on the FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors 1-844-57-HELPS, which has fielded more than 2,500 calls and helped investors recover nearly $750,000 in voluntary reimbursements from firms since its launch last April. The report highlights important lessons for investors gleaned from calls and lays out effective practices for firms to consider when working with senior investors.
The report notes that seniors, who can be especially vulnerable, are frequent targets for fraud. This is a growing concern as the number of people 85 years and older is projected to increase more than 50% between 2012 and 2030. Moreover, cognitive impairment affects more than 20% of adults over the age of 70; and in 2014, retirement assets of those aged 65-74 were estimated at $3.5 trillion, making that population an inviting target for scammers.
“FINRA created the Helpline to provide assistance to senior investors for concerns they have with their brokerage accounts and investments, and I am incredibly pleased with the positive impact it has had in just a few short months,” said Susan Axelrod, FINRA executive vice president, regulatory operations. “The Helpline has also served as a tremendous source of information as we actively engage with seniors, learn of and respond to issues they are experiencing, and use this real-time intelligence to inform our regulatory programs and provide effective practices to firms.”
Calls to the Helpline allowed FINRA to identify several emerging scams, including fraud centering on taxes, bogus lottery winnings and binary options, all of which were flagged by FINRA and resulted in investor alerts. Additionally, helpful tips on using BrokerCheck (FINRA's online tool) before investing and guidance on how to navigate the transfer of an account after the death of a family member were frequent points of discussion with investors seeking help.
Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any FINRA-registered broker or brokerage firm by using FINRA's BrokerCheck. FINRA makes BrokerCheck available at no charge. In 2014, members of the public used this service to conduct 18.9 million reviews of broker or firm records. Investors can access BrokerCheck at http://www.brokercheck.finra.org or by calling (800) 289-9999.
Investors may find copies of disciplinary actions as well as other disciplinary documents in FINRA's Disciplinary Actions Online database. Investors can also call FINRA's Securities Helpline for Seniors at (844) 57-HELPS for assistance or to raise concerns about issues they have with their brokerage accounts and investments.