Three Resources for Senior Investors
In case you missed it, Senior Citizen's Day was August 21. Designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, the day offers a time to pay tribute to the many contributions seniors make to their communities, and to bring awareness to issues of particular importance to America's older citizens.
One of those issues is investor protection. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers three helpful resources for seniors that they can use year round:
FINRA staff will
point seniors to
that can help them
1. FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors®. This free service was launched in 2015 to provide older investors with a place to get assistance from knowledgeable FINRA staff related to concerns they have with their brokerage accounts and investments. Seniors may have unique needs that elevate the need for expedited attention with securities brokerage concerns, including lack of outside income, potential health complications and diminished mental capacity. The FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors provides investors who feel that their account has been mishandled by a broker, and other concerns, with quick and easy access to information and resources.
Since inception, the Helpline has assisted almost 6,000 investors. Calls have come in from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with questions ranging from informational inquiries like what is an annuity or how to research a broker (see our next resource), to questions about required minimum distributions, estate matters and potential fraud or violations of FINRA rules.
Senior investors can call the toll-free FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors at 844-57-HELPS or 844-574-3577 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
2. FINRA BrokerCheck. FINRA oversees the people and firms that sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other securities. Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any FINRA-registered broker or brokerage firm by using FINRA's BrokerCheck. FINRA makes BrokerCheck available at no charge. In 2015, members of the public used this service to conduct 71 million reviews of broker or firm records.
Investors can access BrokerCheck at www.finra.org/brokercheck or by calling (800) 289-9999. Simply type in your current or prospective broker's name to see employment history, certifications and licenses—as well as regulatory actions, violations or complaints you might want to know about. Investors may find copies of this disciplinary action as well as other disciplinary documents in FINRA's Disciplinary Actions Online database. You also can get information about your broker's firm.
3. Fighting Fraud. Even if you have never been subjected to an investment fraudster's sales pitch, you probably know someone who has. Following the legendary Willie Sutton principle, fraudsters tend to go "where the money is"—and that means targeting older Americans who are nearing or already in retirement.
Financial fraudsters tend to go after people who are college-educated, optimistic and self-reliant. They also target those with higher incomes and financial knowledge, and have had a recent health or financial change. FINRA's Fighting Fraud resources include our Fighting Fraud 101 brochure, which explains strategies to recognize and avoid a con artist's pitches.
If you do get a cold call, do not say "yes" to purchases, even if the claims sound plausible. The best fraud pitches are designed to sound believable, and counter every possible doubt or opposition. Don't feel guilty about hanging up. Not answering at all, or putting down the phone, are generally the best and safest responses to a cold caller or anyone aggressively pitching low-priced stocks or other investment opportunities.
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