Think you’re too smart for retirement financial scams? Think again

Posted Sept. 06, 2012, at 11:22 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 07, 2012, at 10:20 a.m.
Metro Creative

You’re dreaming of your retirement years. You’ve worked hard building enough retirement savings to keep up your house and to get by. Unfortunately, the very assets you’ve spent a lifetime protecting make you a prime target for investment fraud, particularly if you are between the ages of 55 and 65.

If you aren’t careful, your golden years may tarnish quickly. If you think you’re too smart to be duped into giving money away, think again.

Most people who are tricked into giving away thousands of dollars are self-reliant, well-educated, knowledgeable about finances, and optimistic. Scammers know how to use people’s confidence and knowledge against them. They also know that retirees are afraid their savings won’t be enough.

Scammers often use a wide array of sophisticated and highly effective tactics to influence their victims. These include enticing investors with supposedly reliable and substantial investment returns; leading retirees to believe that many other savvy investors have invested; creating false urgency by claiming a limited supply; and offering a break on the investment if the person acts now.

Scammers promoting fraudulent investments aren’t necessarily strangers — some are your neighbors and family members promoting investments that your friends have already joined.

Based on national statistics, it’s estimated that nearly 5,000 elders in Maine are victims of financial exploitation each year. While underreported, the financial loss suffered by victims of elder financial abuse nationally is believed to total at least $2.6 billion annually, according to the Department of Justice.

Regardless of whether an elder is victimized by a stranger or a family member, the effects are the same.

The first thing to remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are simple steps everyone can take to protect their hard-earned assets.

Whether it’s a good investment touted by a friend or winning a lottery you didn’t enter, if someone asks for money, get independent information from a neutral source first. Keep track of your finances and take action at the first sign of a problem. Check the professional licensing status of financial professionals and the registration of investment products. These and other tips to protect your wealth can be found at SaveandInvest.org.

Elder financial exploitation is considered one of the growing crimes of the 21st century. That’s why the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the Maine Office of Securities, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, SaveAndInvest.org, and Legal Services for the Elderly are holding free public workshops aimed at helping seniors outsmart financial fraud, as well as other forms of elder abuse.

The workshops will give seniors, caregivers and service providers concrete, useable information and tools to help spot fraud and exploitation, identify persuasive tactics used by fraudsters, learn what questions to ask and how to verify answers, and know where to find help for a friend. Call (877) 353-3771 to register for the session closest to you.

Upcoming workshops on elder abuse:

Cohen Center, Hallowell, Sept. 10, 9-11 a.m.

Scarborough Town Hall, Scarborough, Sept. 10, 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Ramada Inn, Pleasant Street, Lewiston, Sept. 11, 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Spectacular Event Center, Bangor, Sept. 11, 2-4 p.m.

The Gathering Place, Presque Isle, Sept. 12, 9-11 a.m.

Jessica Maurer, Esq., advocates for Maine’s older people on behalf of Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging as the executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. She also chairs the newly created Maine Council for Elder Abuse Prevention.

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