With the aging of baby boomers, advisers are warned to be vigilant about financial elder abuse, fraud and scams. The National Adult Protective Service Agency reports that more than one in 10 (11%) of seniors have been financially abused or exploited in the past year.
In too many cases, though, the adviser's involvement is reactive instead of proactive. Nothing is done until it becomes apparent that money is disappearing unexpectedly, or a client has already been taken. Have you proactively educated your clients on common scams and frauds, or are you chasing after the damage once it's been done? How much would your clients value your services if you were able to save them from falling prey to fraud?
An easy step you can take: Create a branded resource page listing the most common scams and frauds in your area. These are some things to include:
• Getting a call from the IRS demanding immediate payment to avoid jail or requesting information such as a Social Security number or other identifying information.
• Receiving a phone call from a "computer technician" informing the client of a computer virus that is rapidly spreading and stealing person information. The caller urgently requests access via online computer sharing so the client's devices can be scrubbed clean before they are affected.
• Notification that the client has won a huge lottery in a foreign country, but in order to receive the millions they must pay fees, transport or other processing costs upfront. There may also be a warning that informing others will nullify the award.
• Receiving an email or phone call that a grandchild or other relative is stranded in a foreign country without money and passport, or is in a hospital, or was jailed unjustly, along with a plea to wire funds right away.
• An email that looks legitimate but that comes from an address the client does not recognize, or that has no subject line, especially if it contains a link to click on.
• A "friend" develops a relationship online, offering understanding and love to a lonely client. Before long, the friend begins to request money to help resolve legal or medical issues, or to fund a trip to come meet in person, or any number of other scenarios. Once money is sent the first time, the requests continue endlessly.
• A doctor or clinic promises treatments proven to relieve the clients' joint or nerve pain, often with the admonition that regular doctors don't want them to know such a treatment exists because it would ruin their business. Payment is required upfront. There are no written guarantees. And after the "treatment" they often require clients to take expensive "supplements" or there will be no beneficial effect.
You can also keep up to date on the schemes in your area by subscribing to AARP's Fraud Watch Network. The AARP tracks scams and frauds by region, so you know which ones are of particular concern to your clients.
Complete your list and send it to your baby boomer clients, all of your elderly clients and also to the adult children of your clients, even if they are not investing with you. Serve the entire family. Then update the list as necessary, and send it again, keeping you top of mind as an adviser who protects them and acts in their best interests. If you subsequently succeed in warning them away from just one scam or fraud, their gratitude, respect and loyalty will be unsurpassed. It's the right thing to do for your clients, and it also happens to be good for your business.
Amy Florian is an educator, author, public speaker and founder and CEO of Corgenius, a professional training firm focusing on life transition support.