As the population ages, elder financial abuse is a mounting problem, and vulnerable seniors can become victims of scammers who convince them to empty their investment accounts. Now, new rules have been put in place to protect seniors with brokerage accounts from financial scams.
According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the organization that regulates sales of securities, its Securities Helpline for Seniors has received more than 12,000 calls and recovered more than $5.3 million for seniors whose investment funds were illegally or inappropriately distributed since the helpline opened in April 2015.
Now, FINRA has issued two new rules designed to help investment brokers and advisors better protect accounts from exploitation. The rules apply when opening a brokerage account or updating information for an existing account.
First, the broker or investment advisor must ask the investor for the name of a trusted contact person. This is someone the broker can contact if there are questions about the account. The trusted contact is intended to be a resource for the broker to address possible financial exploitation and to obtain the customer’s current contact information and health status or learn about any legal guardian, executor, trustee or holder of a power of attorney.
The second rule allows a broker to place a temporary hold on disbursements from an account if those disbursements seem suspicious. This rule applies to accounts of investors age 65 and older or investors with mental or physical impairments that the broker believes make it difficult for the investor to protect his or her own financial interests. Before disbursing the funds, the brokerage firm will be able to investigate the disbursement by reaching out to the investor, the trusted contact or law enforcement.