Four senior housing and care provider organizations have teamed up with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to educate senior living executive directors about financial fraud and share resources that those leaders, in turn, can pass along to colleagues, residents and families.
The mailing of a letter signed by the heads of the foundation, Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association, LeadingAge and the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care started Monday and will continue for several days this week, Christine Kieffer, senior director of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, told McKnight’s Senior Living.
A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of the Investor Protection Trust found that 17% of adults aged more than 65 have been taken advantage of financially.
Kieffer said the FINRA Foundation effort is meant to familiarize those in the senior living industry with the work and resources of the foundation and FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), which is a not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect U.S. investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly.
“Ultimately, there are a lot of different players involved when someone may have a financial fraud or financial exploitation circumstance,” Kieffer said. “There are a lot of different parties that may or may not be tuned into it on the early side, or may have warning signs and they just don’t know who to turn to or who to report to.”
The letter grew out of meetings with NIC President and CEO Brian Jurutka and others at that organization at the 2016 NIC Fall Conference and afterward, she said, adding that meeting attendance occurred after a FINRA colleague had met some people from NIC.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to see what’s happening in the seniors housing space and see how we might better share our resources and vice versa — learn from them and what their needs are,” Kieffer said of last year’s NIC meeting. “So we starting talking to NIC, and that’s how this mailing came about, as a first step to doing that.”
The foundation has been working with the other organizations represented on the letter indirectly, though NIC, she added.
Initially, approximately 7,800 executive directors will receive the letter, with additional leaders targeted for potential future mailings.
The letter contains hard copies of three FINRA Foundation publications:
“Taking Action: An Advocate’s Guide to Assisting Victims of Financial Fraud,” a professional resource to help people recognize and report financial fraud.
“FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors,” a brochure that includes a toll-free number that people can call to obtain assistance from FINRA or to raise concerns about issues with brokerage accounts and investments.
“Plan for Transition: What You Should Know About the Transfer of Brokerage Account Assets on Death,” an investor alert that provides information for brokerage account holders, family members and other beneficiaries about the general process firms follow when an account holder dies. It also offers tips for making the transfer process as efficient and trouble-free as possible.
Communities can download or print out these materials online or order extra print copies at no cost by contacting the foundation.
Kieffer highlighted the helpline.
“One resource that we certainly want to make sure these groups are aware of is FINRA’s Securities Helpline for Seniors,” she said. “It’s referenced in the mailing as well, but that is an important offering that FINRA provides where seniors and advocates who may have questions about an investment account or a situation and just not know where to go can call the FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors and get assistance. It doesn’t necessarily have to rise to the level of filing a complaint.”
Also referenced in the letter is FINRA BrokerCheck, a free tool that enables consumers to research the background and experience of financial brokers, advisers and firms. FINRA said that the tool also may be helpful for executive directors to use before allowing any financial professionals into their communities to conduct educational programs.
A representative of the FINRA Foundation or one of its partners (such as the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National White Collar Crime Center) also may be available to speak at free on-site programs for residents or their families, she said. Interested communities may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 728-6970.
Kieffer is used to speaking in front of groups of older adults.
“I’ll go to a lot of the Sun City communities or other similar 55+ active adult communities and work with their investor club or another club and arrange for free dinner seminars that are provided by the center foundation,” she said, “and maybe partner with the Securities and Exchange Commission or with one of the state securities regulators, or both, and provide a program to help consumers recognize and resist fraud.”
“There are a number of other resources online that are relevant to this audience” in addition to the ones mentioned in the letter, Kieffer said. Information shared in the mailing was limited due to postage concerns, she added.
In the future, FINRA representatives may attend another NIC conference, and the foundation may conduct additional outreach, including training, Kieffer said.
“We’re certainly offering to help the staffs of the centers and housing communities get to know the issues around financial fraud and what the warning signs are and how they assist their residents and the families that they support in reporting or bringing to light any areas that they’re concerned about before it’s a tremendous problem, but if they have a problem, making sure they know where to go,” she said.
Some of the senior living organizations named on the letter also may be sending out emails to their members that contain additional information, she added.