Education Key to Curbing Elder Exploitation

Commissioner of Securities and Insurance calls financial fraud “crime of the 21st century”

Last month, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica J. Lindeen toured the state to promote a well-worn message – education is key to fighting fraud, which is a constant threat for Montana’s aging population, a segment that con artists regularly target.

“Fraud doesn’t sleep. It’s a huge problem, especially for our seniors,” Lindeen said. “Unfortunately, Montana seniors are on the front lines of investment fraud, with new con artists continually coming up with new schemes for separating people from their hard-earned life savings.”

Lindeen was in town to screen a made-in-Montana documentary about investment fraud, she said, part of her ongoing effort to protect Montanans from unscrupulous operators trying to scam people of their money.

The documentary “Gold Diggers: Investment Fraud in the Treasure State,” tells the story of two of Montana’s most infamous investment scams in recent history, and serves as an educational tool to raise awareness about scams, and how to detect them before it’s too late.

“The more you know about your rights, how to spot the red flags of fraud, and where to turn for help and information, the less likely you are to be taken by a modern-day gold digger,” Lindeen said.

Lindeen noted that seniors should be especially vigilant, and said elder exploitation is a growing problem.

A June 2011 study, the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, found that financial fraud and abuse perpetrated against the elderly in the United States rose by 12 percent in 2009 to $2.9 billion, compared to $2.6 billion in 2008.

Because most cases are unreported due to embarrassment or fear, the problem is believed to be much larger than statistics indicate.

“Elder financial abuse is becoming the crime of the 21st century. Montana’s seniors are often a target, and too often, the shame of being taken by a scam makes seniors reluctant to report the crime,” Lindeen said. “My office is here to root out investment and insurance scams – especially those that target seniors. It’s important to call my office at the first sign that something might be wrong with a securities or insurance product. Making the call early improves our chances to make things right and could save many more Montanans the pain of being taken.”

Montana residents can call the Montana State Auditor’s Office at 800-332-6148.