Fraudsters go where the money is and that means targeting Americans at or nearing retirement, including millions of BabyBoomers and their nest eggs.
Seniors who learn to recognize a phony deal can deflect the scam with a few tricks of their own, said FINRA in its publication “Fighting Fraud 101: Smarter Tips for Older Investors.”
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the U.S. and has the largest foundation in the country dedicated to investor education.
The stereotypical fraud victim is isolated, frail and vulnerable, FINRA said, but recent research shows scammers target independent investors, who are college-educated and have above-average income. The typical victim has above-average knowledge of financial matters and is open to listening to new ideas. He may have experienced a recent health or financial setback.
A fraudster may begin his pitch by asking seemingly harmless questions about your health, hobbies and families. Once scammers find an opening they employ manipulative tactics that fall into common categories. FINRA describes the categories as:
• Phantom Riches – Dangling the prospect of wealth.
• Source Credibility – Claiming to be with a reputable firm, or to have a special credential or experience.
• Social Consensus – Leading you to believe that other savvy investors have already invested.
• Reciprocity – Offering to do a small favor, such as a lower commission, in return for a big favor.
• Scarcity – Creating a false sense of urgency by claiming a limited supply.
FINRA offers three key strategies to distinguish good offers from bad ones:
1. End the Conversation – Simply say “No” or “I am sorry, I am not interested.
Thank you.” If the pressure continues, say, “I never make investing decisions with first consulting my _____. If I am interested I’ll get back to you.”
2. Turn the tables and ask questions. Most financial professionals must be
licensed and registered with such agencies as FINRA and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or state agencies. Ask marketers what credentials they have and where they are registered. The answers can be checked through FINRA BrokerCheck, the SEC Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Data Base, the North American Securities Administrators Association and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
3. Talk to someone before acting. Be extremely skeptical if a salesman asks you not to tell anyone else about a deal, FINRA said. It’s always a good idea
to discuss investment decisions with family or a trusted professional.
FINRA advises seniors take their names off solicitation lists to reduce the number of people who approach them. Any solicitations received after taking this step should be regarded with extreme skepticism. FINRA recommends contacting the following services to reduce unwanted pitches:
• Telemarketing calls: www.donotcall.gov or 888-382-1222.
• Direct Mail and Email Offers: www.dmachoice.org .
• Credit Card Offers: www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-567-8688.
• Online Cooke Collecting: www.networkadvertising.org .
Seniors who believe they or someone they know have been defrauded can contact FINRA Complaints & Tips, the SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy and the North American Securities Administrators Association.