Last spring, FINRA launched a Securities Helpline for Seniors – known as HELPS – as a resource for senior investors with questions and concerns. With the country’s growing population of senior citizens, who are often targeted in fraudulent and deceptive investment schemes, the HELPS line is just another resource in FINRA’s recent push to protect our aging population.
The HELPS line launched on April 20, 2015, and through December 2015, more than 2,500 calls had been placed through the hotline. The average age of the caller was 70 (though the actual age range was 22 to 100), and the calls lasted an average of 25 minutes each. In 2015, HELPS staff assisted callers in recovering $750,000 in voluntary reimbursements from securities firms.
FINRA is also using data collected during calls to assist it with its regulatory goals. By tracking trends in the calls placed to the hotline, FINRA can more readily issue Investor Alerts on topics of current interest. For instance, after a spate of calls about transfer on death accounts, FINRA issued an Investor Alert about that specific topic.
As part of its report on the first eight months of the HELPS program, FINRA also provided some tips for securities firms to assist in protecting seniors. Among the suggestions, FINRA recommends that firms request that seniors provide the name and contact information for another family member or other trusted person, in the event the firm’s representative has concerns about the senior’s well-being. Likewise, firms are advised to set a contact point for senior citizen issues, including but not limited to concerns about elder abuse and/or diminished capacity.
Along with the HELPS line, FINRA is proposing other changes to protect seniors. For instance, FINRA is proposing Rule 2165, entitled Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults, to permit securities firms to place holds on disbursements of assets from a senior’s account, if the firm has a reasonable belief that the senior is being defrauded in some way. FINRA is also experimenting with kiosks in shopping malls to educate seniors on making safe, suitable, legitimate investment decisions.
Of course, if you believe you, or a loved one, has fallen victim to a fraudulent investment or deceptive sales practice, you can always contact our office for a free and confidential consultation at (877) 915-4040.