By Sara Pon – Canadian Centre for Elder Law
We are pleased to announce that the British Columbia Securities Commission is a Gold Level Sponsor of the 2019 Canadian Elder Law Conference. The British Columbia Securities Commission is responsible for regulating the securities market. They provide education for the public on topics of investing and fraud prevention. In this blog post we share an interview with Pamela McDonald, the Director of Communications & Education at the British Columbia Securities Commission.
Seniors are often targeted for financial fraud and scams from strangers. What are the best ways seniors can protect themselves from fraud?
Pamela: Knowledge is the best protection. Know the warning signs of fraud, and when you spot them, walk away and report possible fraudulent investment scams to the British Columbia Securities Commission.
The warning signs include:
- Promises of higher-than-normal returns, or investments that are “risk-free,” “backed by assets,” “held in trust,” “offshore” or “tax-free.”
- An investment tip from a social acquaintance, work colleague or even a family member.
- Claims that the investment is available only to a select few.
- High-pressure sales tactics, especially to invest quickly.
- Sales pitches that are overly complicated, inconsistent or loaded with jargon.
It’s always a good idea to:
- Check an investment salesperson’s registration through the Canadian Securities Administrators’ website.
- Ask for written material about the investment. Take your time, do your research. If you’re told there is no time to do your homework or think it over, then there is a good chance it’s not a legitimate investment.
- Ask an independent professional, like a lawyer or registered investment adviser, about the investment.
- Stick with investment goals that are right for you; don’t expect to get rich quick.
- Don’t give out your personal information, and always be on guard for emails that might contain malicious software.
- Avoid the temptations of free gifts or promotions.
- Report suspicious investments to the British Columbia Securities Commission.
What would you recommend seniors do to protect themselves from financial abuse by family or friends?
Pamela: Even if it’s someone you trust, don’t let your guard down – that person might have the best of intentions, and may not realize they have fallen for – and are now helping to perpetuate – a fraud.
What would your organization recommend to lawyers that they can do to help protect their clients and their investments?
Pamela: Lawyers can help their elderly clients understand the different types of authority that can be given to others to manage their financial affairs. For example, what does it mean to give someone the power of attorney over your account? How is that different from entering into a joint account relationship? Based on that knowledge, seniors can then think about how they want their affairs managed if they are incapacitated or in a difficult situation.
Lawyers should also encourage seniors to seek help understanding the legality of investments when they are being approached to invest in something that they don’t understand.
What are your favourite fraud prevention resources for seniors?
In addition, the following pages should be very helpful – they are not geared specifically to seniors because anyone can be a victim of investment fraud, but the pages apply to them:
- Fraud warning signs
- Investment fraud explained
- How to research an investment offer
- How to identify a con artist
- How to spot investment scams
Why does your organization feel it is important to support the seniors sector and older clients?
Pamela: Investing at any age involves a careful weighing of risk and reward, critical thinking, and the ability to do some research, all aimed at making sound decisions. As Canadians – and thus, investors – live longer, the subtle changes caused by physical, cognitive or psychological limitations could make these tasks more challenging. Research suggests that older Canadians are at a heightened risk of financial exploitation: Canadians aged 65 or older are the most likely age group to report being the victims of financial fraud, and financial abuse is the second most common form of elder abuse in Canada.
Protecting investors is one of the core responsibilities of the British Columbia Securities Commission, and because of the potential vulnerabilities associated with aging, protecting seniors is a major thrust of our efforts, whether it’s through public education campaigns, distribution of advice and tips, ensuring that investing professionals fulfill their responsibilities to clients, and taking enforcement action against those who prey on investors. We want to make sure that the nest eggs that people have spent decades growing are put to their intended use – supporting a healthy, fulfilling retirement.
Canadian Elder Law Conference
The Canadian Elder Law Conference 2019, entitled Bridging the Gap: Elder Law for Everyone will be taking place from November 14-15, 2019 in Vancouver, BC.