Before creating the Securities Helpline for Seniors two years ago, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. may not have realized what it could learn or the impact it could have through direct contact with elderly investors and their caretakers.
But results compiled for the second anniversary of the hotline show that seniors truly need help, and that there is much the industry's self-regulatory body can do — beyond the $4.3 million in voluntary reimbursements from securities firms it has arranged, encouraged or cajoled over the past two years.
Since April 2015, the helpline (1-844-574-3577) has fielded more than 9,200 calls from individuals whose average age is 70, although callers range in age from 17 to 102. Finra staff members have referred nearly 650 matters to state, federal and foreign regulators, and made more than 130 referrals to Adult Protective Services under the mandatory reporting laws of 16 states, according to a Finra release.
In addition to requesting basic information regarding investing and inquiring about online services, callers have asked about lost securities and raised concerns of potential unsuitable recommendations, fraud, excessive trading, and illegal activity involving brokerage accounts and investments, as well as abuse and exploitation by persons outside of the securities industry.
As a result of helpline calls, Finra said it has learned about IRS impersonation scams, binary options scams and difficulties in transferring assets from broker-dealers after the death of a loved one. The hotline also prompted Finra to adopt a new rule that addresses the financial exploitation of seniors.