Be Aware of the Signs of Financial Abuse of Senior Citizens

According to a press release from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, social isolation, loneliness and increased reliance on the internet can potentially create a perfect storm for the financial abuse and fraud victimization of senior citizens. Social distancing and quarantines intended to protect against the spread of COVID-19 also have increased social isolation for many seniors, making them more vulnerable to financial exploitation.

Perpetrators may be strangers, trusted friends, members of a senior’s social group, financial professionals or others.

Ron Thomas, Director of the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising, urges Virginians to stay in touch with older family members, friends and neighbors.

“Financial abuse can happen anytime, but perpetrators often strike when seniors are most vulnerable, such as during a health or other crisis or after the death of a loved one,” said Thomas. “Increased reliance on the internet by isolated seniors for social interaction, shopping, electronic payments, banking and investing also exposes them to online scammers, who can hide behind a cloak of anonymity.  Remind seniors that scammers follow the headlines and may try to exploit the pandemic. Warn them about the red flags of fraud, which are often the same regardless of the type of scam.”

Warning flags that may indicate financial abuse include the following:

  • Surrendering passwords and control of finances to a new or overly protective friend or caregiver;
  • Fear of or a sudden change in feelings toward friends or family members;
  • A lack of knowledge about their financial status or a reluctance to discuss financial matters;
  • Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits, or to their will, trust or beneficiary designations;
  • Unexplained financial activities, such as checks made out to cash, unusual loans or disappearance of assets;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.

Before making any investment decision:

  • Contact a trusted friend, family member, company or advisor for advice;
  • Make sure an offer and the person offering it are properly licensed or registered;
  • Investigate before you invest or provide personal or financial information or money;
  • Avoid “can’t miss” opportunities promising “guaranteed returns” with little or no risk;
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics that urge you to act quickly.

Virginians who suspect they or a loved one are the victims of investment fraud or possible senior financial exploitation should contact the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising at 1-800-552-7945.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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