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Minnesota Commerce Department trains financial professionals to spot and stop fraud against seniors

10/18/2016 10:01:12 AM

For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL – Nearly 250 Minnesota financial professionals recently attended a training session held by the Minnesota Commerce Department on how to identify and report suspected cases of senior financial exploitation. The training was held at the Annual Symposium of the Financial Planning Association of Minnesota.

The session – led by Brian Edstrom, the Commerce Department’s Director of Securities  – was part of Senior$afe Training Week sponsored by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), representing state securities regulators.  Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is the current president of NASAA.

“Protecting seniors against financial exploitation is a top priority for the Minnesota Commerce Department and state securities regulators across the country,” said Rothman. “Seniors can be especially vulnerable to the threat of financial fraud, and this threat is expected to grow as our senior population itself grows. Financial professionals have an essential role in helping to prevent and stop these crimes against seniors.”

In recent years, the Minnesota Commerce Department has stepped up its efforts to protect seniors against financial fraud and scams, working closely with groups like AARP as well as with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.

According to the Investor Protection Trust, one out of every five persons over the age of 65 has been victimized by a financial swindle. One recent study estimated that older Americans are defrauded out of nearly three billion dollars each year. 

Rothman said that financial professionals are uniquely positioned to help identify when seniors are being scammed or defrauded. Because of their long-standing relationships of trust with older clients, they are able to serve as a first line of defense to spot and stop financial crimes.

Rothman highlighted a recent example in which a financial adviser contacted the Commerce Department to seek help with a senior client who was suddenly trying to cash out a pre-tax annuity worth $250,000. The client said she needed the money to pay advance taxes and fees from “winning” a lottery in Costa Rica.

Despite a discussion with a Commerce Fraud Bureau agent, the client remained convinced she had won a $4 million lottery. The Commerce Department then contacted the client’s bank, which froze her account to stop the transfer of money to Costa Rica. The client called a few weeks later to thank the Commerce Department, acknowledging that she had been the victim of a fraud. 

“This is an instance where a financial professional really deserves praise for going above and beyond to protect her senior client,” said Rothman. “Senior financial exploitation is a threat that requires an ‘all hands on deck’ response from everyone in a position to prevent and stop these crimes.”

Commerce is here to help

If you have a question or concern about a possible scam or fraud, contact the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

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