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Post date: October 2 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Launches Statewide Investment Fraud Initiative: "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don'T Get Scammed"

Investor Education Program And Seminar Tour Aims To Help Seniors Identify Frauds and Scams Artists Before They Are Victimized; Will Aid Them In Reporting Investment Crimes When They Are Victimized

Schneiderman: We Will Empower New York Seniors To Help Stop Them From Being Preyed Upon By Those Who Target The Vulnerable And Elderly

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the launch of "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don't Get Scammed," a statewide investment fraud prevention program designed to help seniors identify potential scams and rip-offs before they happen. The focus will be on investment and financial fraud that targets older New Yorkers - the warning signs, how to avoid being taken advantage of and where to seek help if you think you're a victim.

Today's kick-off event, featuring Attorney General Schneiderman, is a community forum for seniors at Harlem's Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, located at 2180 Third Avenue in Manhattan (119th Street). The program is the first of eleven events scheduled around the state over the next five weeks, from Erie and Monroe to Onondaga and Suffolk counties; also in Albany, Saratoga Springs, White Plains and at the Carter Burden Center for the Aging in New York City.

The Attorney General's office is running the "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors" campaign partnership with the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College, the AARP, Lifespan of Greater Rochester and The Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale.

"We're all at risk of becoming victims of investment fraud.  Losing money on a bogus investment can happen to anyone.  Unfortunately, older adults, who are often targeted by con artists, are at special risk. This educational push is aimed at empowering New York seniors with information that will help them spot a scam before they are scammed," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "Fraudsters may buy you lunch or invite you to a free seminar, or they may belong to your church or favorite community organization - and they use that association to get you to trust them. That's what Bernie Madoff did. My 'Smart Seniors, Smart Investors' program is an important tool that we are deploying to protect older New Yorkers. I encourage seniors, and their children and their neighbors, to get involved - and get 'Smart.' "

Elder investment fraud is a serious and growing problem. People 60 years and older make up 15 percent of the population but account for an estimated 30 percent of investment fraud victims. The 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse found that the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is at least $2.9 billion. Another recent report, titled "Under the Radar: New York State Elder Prevalence Abuse Study," found that for every reported case of abuse, more than 20 cases go unreported. This underscores the critical importance of education, outreach and fraud prevention. "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors" will help seniors protect their financial assets and avoid the devastating emotional and financial harm that victims suffer.

Because elder investment fraud spikes dramatically during the holiday season, the outreach campaign is being timed to get the word out ahead of time. During the next five weeks, presenters will visit senior centers, libraries and senior clubs across the state to teach older adults about the most common investment fraud scams, the techniques perpetrators commonly use, and whom to alert if they identify a scam or are victimized. Presentations will also be made to professionals who work with older adults. 

Senior groups are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's office to book a "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don't Get Scammed" presentation by calling 1-800-771-7755.

The broad themes covered in "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don't Get Scammed" include:

  • ASK QUESTIONS: Investigate before you invest.
  • BE PREPARED TO SAY NO: Don't be rushed into an investment. It is okay to say, "No, let me think about it."
  • GET A SECOND OPINION: Ask your attorney, stockbroker, accountant, or other reliable consultant about the investment first. Even discussing the opportunity with friends and family first can be beneficial. Don't be afraid to discuss it with others before making the investment.

Specific topics that will be covered in the programs include: who is at risk, how con artists operate, the psychology of persuasion and influence, techniques commonly used by con artists, the red flags to look out for, and strategies to take control of your finances and avoid becoming a victim of investment fraud.  In conjunction with the launch of the "Smart Seniors" outreach program, Attorney General Schneiderman's office is issuing a new "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors - Don't Get Scammed" brochure. Click here for the brochure.

"Financial security is a crucial issue for older New Yorkers, many say they'll have to delay retirement due to finances, some worry they won't be able to retire at all, the group is a ripe target for investment fraud," said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP in New York. "AARP commends Attorney General Schneiderman for his efforts to protect older New Yorker's, and we are glad to be partnering with him on this important initiative."

Ann Marie Cook, President & CEO, Lifespan of Greater Rochester and Co-Chair of the NYS Coalition on Elder Abuse, said, "I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for dedicating the time, effort and resources to protect older adults from investment fraud and scams. The 'Smart Seniors, Smart Investors' project will go a long way in helping older adults to protect their assets from con artists."

Jean Callahan, Director of the Brookdale Center, said, "Working together, we can empower seniors and help them avoid the disastrous consequences of investment fraud. Seniors have a strong advocate in Attorney General Schneiderman and we are pleased that he chose to debut this new statewide program at the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging. Financial exploitation of older adults is an epidemic which reduces the quality and length of life for seniors. 'Smart Seniors, Smart Investors' will empower older adults, enhance public awareness and send a clear message to criminals who prey on this vulnerable population."

Daniel Reingold, President & CEO of The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, said, "The Hebrew Home at Riverdale and its Weinberg Center on Elder Abuse Prevention applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his proactive and creative efforts to prevent elder investment fraud and punish perpetrators."

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has been committed to fighting elder abuse and protecting seniors.

  • In September, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the sentencing of a former Saratoga County insurance agent who defrauded an elderly couple of more than $300,000 over the course of nearly eight years.  Joseph A. Marvullo, 64, of Porter Corners, New York, met his victims through their church and gained their trust in part by portraying himself as a fellow Christian. He lured his victims into his scheme by claiming that he could sell them higher-yielding insurance and investment products than the annuities they owned. Marvullo was sentenced to two to six years in prison and was ordered to pay full restitution to his victims. Marvullo pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, this past July. 
  •  In May, Attorney General Schneiderman issued a warning to New Yorkers about a scam targeting senior citizens with robo-calls advising that they have been "approved" for medical alert equipment at "no charge." The message uses scare tactics to induce consumers to respond to the offer, warning of a "significant rise in the number of senior citizens suffering death and serious life-threatening injuries from a delay in response times for medical emergencies, fires, burglaries, or even a simple fall." The robo-call identifies the business as "Senior Medical Alert" or "Senior Medical Advisors" and attempts to obtain consumers' billing information in order to charge those consumers $35 a month for alleged "monitoring" services.
  •  This "Smart Seniors, Smart Investors" program is the second launched by Attorney General Schneiderman that is aimed at protecting older New Yorkers from fraud. In July 2012, "Smart Seniors," which offered wide-ranging tips on the type of frauds targeted at seniors, debuted.