Preventing Financial Abuse: Role of the BC Securities Commission

Practice Point

Preventing Financial Abuse: Role of the BC Securities Commission

October 4, 2023
By Kelly Melnyk, Director – Canadian Centre for Elder Law

Fraud and financial abuse seem to exist almost daily in our lives, from the unidentified caller to the phishing email. Yet financial abuse often occurs in situations with a trusted individual, making it difficult to spot, report, and remedy. This led me to a conversation with the BC Securities Commission’s Director of Communications & Education, Pamela McDonald, about Elder Law and the role of the BC Securities Commission in this area.

When asked about her involvement with the BC Securities Commission, she told us she has always had an interest in investing, starting with her university education and early work in securities. Ms. McDonald worked in the financial communications sector, leading her to a longtime career in communications and public affairs.  When the opportunity arose for her to combine her passion for communications work and interest in the investment industry, Ms. McDonald jumped at it, becoming the Director of Communications & Education at the BC Securities Commission in 2013.

We asked Ms. McDonald how the BC Securities Commission is involved in Elder Law and her answer was an important call to action:

“We want all British Columbians to recognize the signs of elder financial abuse which is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. In 2021, a national study conducted by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) to understand how elder financial abuse impacts Canadians, found that one-third (31%) of British Columbians personally know someone who experienced elder financial abuse. At the same time, half of all British Columbians (50%) say they could not recognize the signs of financial abuse, while only 42% know where to report incidents of financial abuse. These statistics inform the work done by the BC Securities Commission to empower all British Columbians to recognize, reject, and report elder financial abuse and investment fraud by learning how to recognize common warning signs.”

The BC Securities Commission provides helpful information on identifying elder financial abuse on its website, including an informative video that explains what financial elder abuse is and how to help protect older adults from investment fraud.

Ms. McDonald went on to discuss with us the Trusted Contact Person (TCP) initiative recently adopted by Canadian securities regulators as an important tool for protecting individuals from potential financial abuse. Ms. McDonald explained, “A TCP may be a family member, attorney, accountant, or another responsible person who respects an individual’s privacy and has their best interests at heart. When naming a TCP, individuals will provide written consent for this person to be contacted, in limited circumstances, if there are suspicions about investment fraud or if their advisor has concerns about one’s ability to make financial decisions and has been unable to reach their client about investment fraud or if their advisor has concerns about one’s ability to make financial decisions and has been unable to reach their client.”

Opportunities for the BC Securities Commission to discuss elements of elder law, including estate planning, capacity, and inter-family dynamics, with other professionals are key to ensuring awareness of the occurrence of financial abuse. Part of this awareness is encouraging inter-professional dialogue to help prevent financial abuse but also the involvement of the BC Securities Commission in situations where financial abuse may have occurred.

The BC Securities Commission is a Silver sponsor for the Canadian Elder Law Conference and sees the Conference as an opportunity to further these conversations, with Ms. McDonald noting, “Elder financial abuse often involves a family member, so we feel it’s important for professionals who are assisting in these matters to be aware of the issue. This year’s conference theme is “Tools for Aging Populations,” and we see value in the multi-disciplinary presentations and discussions about ethical issues faced by the legal community when dealing with elder financial abuse.”

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