Here's a cautionary tale: the husband of a retired high school teacher who thought he was going to protect his investment was instead the victim of an investment scam that would have netted the agent a $30,000 commission. The Aiken (SC) Standard, "Seniors, don't get ripped off," reports that the salesperson convinced him to purchase an equity indexed annuity product that was totally wrong for his age and stage, incurred penalties and, by the way, was also illegal.
The insurance agent actually convinced the man to combine the funds from an IRA with non-qualified assets and lump them all together into a single investment. When he did this, he was hit with a surrender penalty to move money out of an existing annuity. The agent assured him that he'd make up the loss with "bonus interest."
Co-mingling qualified assets with non-qualified monies is illegal and subjected this man and his family to tax penalties. This story ends on a happy note because an experienced and forthright insurance agent was later able to straighten out the mess and get the man's money back without any problems. The first agent complained that the corrections cost him more than $30,000 in potential commissions.
There's plenty of financial chicanery that targets seniors. One reason is that older Americans are more apt to have the means to purchase a financial product than younger folks. That, along with many seniors being more polite and trusting, often makes them marks for schemes by unscrupulous sales reps pushing inappropriate insurance and other financial products.
Many seniors fail to report such fraudulent activity because they either don't know where to turn or they're embarrassed about their actions. Still worse—frequently, seniors are unaware that they've been taken. That said, here are some important points to keep in mind:
- Visit www.finra.org/investors/finra-securities-helpline-seniors if you believe you've been misled by a financial adviser or life insurance salesperson.
- If you are talking with a salesperson of a financial product, consult with a family member and an elder law attorney, and ask them both to join the presentation.
- If the salesperson proposes a specific product, get all of the details in writing and review them later.
- Don't be pressured into making any decision alone.
- Since unscrupulous salespersons typically dislike questions, get complete answers to your questions.
- Don't sign anything you don't fully understand.
Anyone who promises fast money is almost always trying to rip you off. Don't fall for it!
Reference: Aiken (SC) Standard (January 16, 2016) "Seniors, don't get ripped off"