The guests on the podcast were Senior Helpline’s managers Brooke Hickman and Rob Mascio.
“The senior helpline is a toll-free number that investors can call if they have concerns about their investment or if they have questions about their investments or specific products,” Hickman said.
“FINRA’s had a long-standing commitment to helping protect senior investments and the helpline is really one additional resource for individuals that may face concerns or questions,” said Mascio.
He noted that in the US ten thousand people per day turn sixty-five years old and one in five seniors are defrauded in some way.
Hickman said the helpline gets anywhere from seventy to one hundred calls per week.
“In five years, we’ve had over eighteen thousand calls,” she said.
Mascio said the states of California, New York, and Florida, are the states where most of the calls come from
“But we’ve also received calls from all fifty states,” he noted further.
Hickman said that on average a call lasts approximately twenty-five minutes but that individual calls have lasted more than two hours.
“When we first started back in 2015, it was an initiative that started in the Boca Raton, Florida district office and it was staffed entirely by volunteers,” Mascio said.
He said it evolved, “We were able to hire on full time staff, whose sole responsibility was the helpline and the functions involved within the helpline. We’ve also begun doing more examination type work.”
He said that the unit has evolved beyond just a helpline and into speaking engagements and other outreach events.
“We’ve also developed a really good working with a lot of firms who see us as a resource if they have concerns about a customer’s diminished capacity or a potential financial exploitation,” Hickman added.
FINRA rule 2165 addresses financial exploitation of seniors.
“FINRA Rule 2165 (Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults) permits, under FINRA rules, a member that reasonably believes that financial exploitation has occurred, is occurring, has been attempted or will be attempted to place a temporary hold on the disbursement of funds or securities from the account of a “specified adult” customer. Specified adults include a natural person age 65 and older or a natural person age 18 and older who the member reasonably believes has a mental or physical impairment that renders the individual unable to protect his or her own interests,” FINRA’s website states.
The exploitation of seniors is something that other parts of the US government have taken more seriously.
Th US Department of Justice recently announced an initiative to combat senior exploitation, including for financial crimes.
“Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse,” the US Department of Justice said in a statement from February 2020.
In May 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission put out a paper entitled, “How the SEC Works to Protect Senior Investors”
FINRA is a self-regulatory organization which was created in 2007 when the regulatory arms of the NYSE and NASD merged.