Elder Financial Abuse – Recognize it and prevent it

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) is encouraging Albertans to be aware of the signs of elder financial abuse.

Elder abuse can manifest in various forms, including physical, emotional, neglect, and financial mistreatment. In Canada, financial abuse is the most prevalent type, often occurring following a crisis, the loss of a loved one, or a decline in physical or mental health, when individuals may be feeling vulnerable and isolated. Unfortunately, identifying financial abuse can be challenging. Financial abuse is often a pattern, rather than a single event, and may happen over a long period of time. It involves the illegal or unauthorized use of someone else’s money or property, which can range from forceful acts like theft or fraud to more subtle forms of pressure or deception. Victims of financial abuse, particularly when it involves friends or family members, may be reluctant to acknowledge or report the abuse, resulting in the abuse going unidentified.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse

Being aware of the warning signs can help loved ones identify potential cases of elder financial abuse. Some signs that a senior may be experiencing financial exploitation include:

  • Unusual financial activity that does not align with their capabilities, such as online banking despite being unfamiliar with computers or making frequent ATM withdrawals despite mobility limitations.
  • Sudden liquidation of investments without a reasonable explanation.
  • Difficulty in contacting the person responsible for managing their finances.
  • Abrupt changes in living arrangements without apparent cause.
  • Emergence of a new close relationship, including romantic involvement, or a sudden shift in emotions towards a person or group.
  • Overly keen interest or involvement in the senior’s financial matters by a friend, family member, or caregiver.
  • Unwillingness to discuss financial matters or an unusual preoccupation with winning lotteries or sweepstakes.

Ways Seniors can Safeguard Their Finances:

Seniors can take proactive steps to protect themselves from financial abuse and support their well-being:

  • Foster social connections: Develop a network of trusted friends and relatives with whom you can openly discuss relationships and financial matters. If you feel someone is intruding excessively, pressuring you, or seeking unwarranted access to your finances, seek support from your trusted network.
  • Stay informed: Thoroughly research investment opportunities or sales pitches before entrusting your money to anyone. Consider consulting a registered financial advisor if you require assistance in managing your finances.
  • Monitor investments: Review financial statements or reports regularly. In case of any unfamiliar account activity, don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification.
  • Appoint a Trusted Contact Person: Consider appointing a Trusted Contact Person. A Trusted Contact Person is someone you’ve given your financial advisor or firm permission to contact should the advisor suspect financial abuse or detect signs of cognitive decline.
  • Be cautious about sharing personal information: Exercise caution when asked to provide copies of sensitive information like driver’s licenses, social insurance numbers, or credit card details. Understand why the information is necessary and how it will be used.
  • Don’t allow anyone to remotely access/control your computer or phone: Be vigilant about protecting your computer or mobile phone from remote access. Be wary of any person trying to persuade you to download a program for your computer or install an app on your phone.
  • Educate yourself about investment scams: visit our Types of investment scams page or reach out to the ASC for information on common investment scams and strategies to avoid them.
  • Understand affinity fraud risks: Even if a close friend or family member recommends an investment opportunity, conduct independent research and don’t succumb to pressure to make immediate decisions.


For help or more information on elder financial abuse visit albertaelderabuse.ca

Naming a Trusted Contact Person: Why it Matters

As we age, we may experience a decline in health or cognitive capacity that could result in difficulty making financial decisions independently. Unfortunately, relying on the help of family members, caregivers and friends can increase the risk of financial exploitation and fraud. One way to safeguard against potential future financial harm is by naming a Trusted Contact Person (TCP).

Who is a Trusted Contact Person?

If you invest with a financial institution or investment firm, your advisor is required to ask you about providing a Trusted Contact Person (TCP). The decision to name a TCP is optional and it’s your choice if you would like to name someone. Providing your advisor with consent to contact your TCP is similar to providing them with an emergency contact. Depending on the consent you provide, your advisor could contact your TCP in the following circumstances:

  • You cannot be reached after repeated attempts and where failure to contact you would be unusual
  • The advisor has concerns you are being financially exploited
  • The advisor has concerns about mental capacity as it relates to your ability to make financial decisions
  • Your advisor needs confirmation of your legal representative (e.g. power of attorney, executor, trustee)

For example, your advisor may contact your TCP when they cannot reach you because you have taken an extended vacation and forgot to inform them. Or, in more sensitive situations, your advisor may contact your TCP to ensure the validity of a request that they believe is out of character.

What can and can’t my Trusted Contact Person do?

A TCP’s sole purpose is to help safeguard your financial assets by being an additional resource to help your advisor make decisions that best protect your account. Your advisor might contact your TCP to discuss:

  • Concerns about your mental capacity and ability to make financial decisions
  • Signs of financial mistreatment or abuse they’ve observed
  • Concerns that you are being scammed

Your TCP is different than a power of attorney. A TCP is not permitted to manage your finances or make financial decisions on your behalf.

Who should be your Trusted Contact Person?

A TCP should be a mature family member or friend who you trust, and you should feel comfortable that they can handle difficult conversations about your personal situation if they arise. Consider choosing someone you know will protect your interests, is familiar with your support network, and is not typically involved in your financial decisions. You should also ensure the person you select agrees to take on the role and is comfortable talking to your advisor.

While naming a TCP on your account is optional and not a legal process, it can provide you valuable peace of mind knowing that your advisor has someone you trust to help safeguard your financial assets now and in the future.

To learn more about assigning a TCP to your accounts, please visit our Investing as you age page or speak to your registered advisor.

Staying ahead of investment scams in 2023

March is Fraud Prevention Month, a time when Albertans are reminded to brush up on their knowledge of investment scams and fraud to better safeguard themselves and those they care for. One of the most prevalent types of fraud is investment scams, which impacts experienced and new investors alike. In a recent study conducted by the ASC, 48% of Albertans believed they had been approached with a potentially fraudulent investment opportunity.

By understanding the tell-tale signs of fraud and remembering the fundamental principles of making suitable investment decisions, Albertans can recognize, avoid and report investment fraud and financial abuse. Remember the following red flags to safeguard your savings or those of someone you care about from an insidious investment scam.

Leveraging fears or anxieties

A go-to tactic for scam artists is tapping into the financial stressors you (their target) may have. This could include the anxiety of not having enough for retirement, leaving a legacy for loved ones or the fear of missing out on great investments. Regardless, be mindful of anyone trying to tap into your fears or anxieties when offering an investment. It is important to pause and do your research before making any investment decisions. Do an online search to see if there are any news articles, social media posts or disciplinary actions taken against the individual or company. Even if the offer isn’t fraudulent, it may not be right for you so it’s important to understand it and its risks.

New friends or love interests taking an interest in your financial wellbeing

As we connect with friends and family and make new friendships, be wary of any new person in your life who takes an immediate interest in your finances. Fraudsters often work hard to establish trust, learn the fears or anxieties you may have, understand how much they can steal and how to manipulate you. Be sure to create boundaries and do not share your personal financial information or anything about your private matters. Also, be mindful of the personal information you share about yourself online – adjust your Facebook, or other social media account settings to “private”, and carefully consider any friend requests. Don’t share personal or financial information with anyone you’ve just met online or in-person unless you can verify their identity and have thoroughly researched any financial offers they’ve given you.

Investment offers from unregistered individuals

By law, anyone selling investments in Alberta should generally be registered with the ASC. Check to see if the firm or individual pitching the investment opportunity is registered by checking the Canadian Securities Administrators’ (CSA) National Registration Search. If the investment offer comes to you from a friend, ask where it originated from and ensure the individual or firm that offered it to your friend is registered. Contact the ASC if you suspect it may be a fraudulent investment or need assistance in confirming registration.

Exclusive offers

Investments promoted as exclusive offers just to you is a clear red flag of fraud. Scam artists often try to take advantage of those interested in investing by promoting opportunities to “get in early,” or claiming that unless you move fast, you are going to miss out on the latest trend or great “opportunity” to make money. Exclusive or time-sensitive offers drive false urgency and prevent you from researching and talking to others about the investment. Investments will always be available, and no credible financial advisor should ever rush you into a decision.

Growing your investor knowledge can help you recognize, avoid and report investment fraud. If you are interested in learning more about how to stay safe and protect yourself from fraud, consider attending a virtual or in-person Fraud Prevention Month event. If you are interested in attending a free event this month, please visit our events page.

If you feel you or someone you care for may be involved in an investment scam, do not let the embarrassment or fear keep you from speaking up. You can contact or file a complaint with the ASC or call us toll-free at 1-877-355-4488.

Keeping romance scams out of your online social and dating life

For many in today’s increasingly connected online world, using apps and social platforms to connect with others has become convenient and common. As of 2021, eHarmony, a popular online dating platform, reported that 36% of Canadians use online dating platforms. Unfortunately, with the popularity of dating apps and social media, fraudsters are increasingly using them to scam Canadians. According to data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, romance and investment scams were among the country’s top forms of fraud. Last year alone, Albertans lost $4.5 million dollars to romance-related scams. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to safeguard your personal information and recognize, avoid and report these types of scams.

What are online investment and romance scams?

One of the go-to tactics of fraudsters is to tailor their scams to potential victims. Social media platforms can offer a wealth of valuable information – public profiles or posts can share insights into your location, interests, friends, and family members, all of which can help the fraudster craft a convincing and tangible story around their scam. Fraudsters can even impersonate someone the victim trusts, such as a friend or family member, to offer investment opportunities. In a 2020 Investor Index conducted by the Canadian Securities Administrators, 1 in 4 Canadians stated that they were more likely to trust an investment opportunity if it was recommended by someone they knew. In addition to social media, scammers patrol online groups and dating sites, seeking to establish trusting friendships or romantic relationships with potential victims to manipulate them into investing in a scam. They may pressure individuals to invest, guarantee high returns with little risk, and even convince the victim to continue investing over time, leading to substantial losses.

Protecting your social media profiles from investment fraud and romance scams

There are steps you can take today to protect yourself from investment and romance scams on social media and dating apps.

  1. Limit the amount of publicly available information about yourself online. This can be done by adjusting your privacy settings on these platforms.
  2. Be highly skeptical of unsolicited investment offers, especially from those you have just met.
  3. If an offer comes from a friend, family member or someone you trust, consider checking the offer’s legitimacy by contacting the individual by phone or in-person.
  4. Watch for the most common red flags of fraud, including pressure to invest, guarantees of high returns, and investment offers in cryptocurrencies.
  5. Do not take up investment offers from someone not registered with the Alberta Securities Commission.

While social media and dating apps have made it easier for individuals to connect, they also provide opportunities for scammers to target unsuspecting victims. By being aware of the tactics used by scammers and taking steps to keep your personal information private, you can better protect yourself from falling victim to online investment and romance scams.

ASC highlights top investment risks for 2023

The Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) has compiled a list of the top investment risks and potential scams to watch out for in 2023, based on investor complaints, ongoing investigations, and current enforcement trends.

1. Advice from fraudulent “finfluencers”

Many people look to social media for “how-to” information, and that includes when it comes to finding information about investing. There is an increasing trend of “finfluencers” on social media. These financial influencers use their large social media followings to discuss trends and share advice on topics related to finance and investing.

Some fraudsters act as finfluencers to purposefully promote deceitful investment information through schemes like:

  • Touting: promoting an investment without disclosing compensation
  • Scalping: promoting a stock to quickly drive up the price and then selling at the inflated price

Investors should exercise caution when considering investments promoted as a sure thing. And do thorough research on the company, offer and all parties involved before investing in anything promoted on social media.

Where can you go for information? Start with a Google search about the company and offer. Even if the offer isn’t fraudulent, it may not be right for you. It’s important to fully understand anything you’re investing in.

2. New (fake) friend alert

Any investor should be cautious of new friends offering investment opportunities, particularly related to cryptocurrency or forex trading. Fraudsters often use apps and social networking sites to build relationships and establish trust with strangers, before tailoring an investment scam to their needs and encouraging them to invest increasing amounts of money through professional-looking websites. Victims some times see early returns, but these are designed to create a false sense of credibility. Eventually, the victim can no longer access the website or withdraw their money and the fraudster gives excuses or stops communication altogether.

Always be cautious about sharing any personal information online or in person. Always take time to consider the source of the information and research the opportunity on your own or in consultation with a registered investment advisor.

3. Impersonating a regulatory agent

Investors should be aware of fraudsters impersonating regulatory agents. These fraudsters may pretend to be staff from the ASC or another regulatory agency, using the agency’s logo, name, picture, credentials and social media accounts. When impersonating a legitimate staff member they pressure investors into providing personal information or transferring money. It’s important to always verify the identity of the source and remember that the ASC will never request that an individual transfer money to the organization or to any staff member. To verify the legitimacy of a request, investors can check verified ASC social media accounts on our website and contact the ASC’s public inquiries office to confirm the legitimacy of any request they receive allegedly from the ASC.

4. Spoofed Websites

There is a growing trend of spoofed websites that imitate legitimate investment firms. Often these sites offer unrealistic rates of return. These sites can appear in internet searches alongside legitimate firms and often claim to be “registered with the CSA” or authorized to sell investments in Canada. To protect yourself, always check the registration of any advisor or organization. To learn how to spot the red flags of fake websites, visit the interactive SpotTheSpoof.ca website brought to you by the ASC.

5. Celebrity endorsements

Be cautious of celebrity endorsements for investment opportunities. While it’s common for legitimate businesses to use celebrities to endorse their products, fraudsters do as well. When you see a celebrity promoting an investment, it’s important to remember that they may be being paid to do so with little to no understanding of the investment they are promoting or their image might be being used without their knowledge or consent. Fraudsters will often mimic celebrity personas, adopt similar social media handles, create cloned websites, and manipulate quotes and images to make the endorsement appear genuine. Investors should be cautious of any investment opportunity that is promoted by a celebrity.

As the new year gets underway, it’s a good time to review your investing goals and brush up on your knowledge to protect yourself from scams. Always be vigilant for red flags of fraud and thoroughly research any investment before making a decision. If you suspect any suspicious investment offers, report them immediately to the ASC’s public inquiries office. To keep up to date throughout the year, consider signing up for the ASC’s Investor Newsletter.

Three steps to take before downloading a mobile investment app

Investing today has never been more accessible. With the advent of electronic trading platforms in 1992, the proliferation of internet accessibility in the mid-to-late 90s and the growing adoption of mobile devices in the early 2000s, investors now have access to a variety of easy-to-use mobile investment apps.

While these technological advancements have made investing more accessible, investors need to remember to conduct thorough research on any investment app they plan to use. Specifically, investors should consider their fee expectations, service needs and most importantly, if the app is credible and registered. Below are three steps to assess if an investment app is legitimate and suitable for you.


1. Registration is essential, even for investment apps

Not all apps offered through the app marketplace on our mobile devices are credible and such apps can expose you to the risk of fraud. It is important to always to check the registration of any investment advisor, firm or platform to ensure they are working in compliance with regulatory requirements. Securities professionals and firms dealing in securities are required to register with securities regulators, and this requirement extends to the investment apps they offer. Checking registration enables investors to validate that the investment app they plan to use is qualified and permitted to sell securities. Ignoring or skipping this step and using an investment app offered by an unregistered firm may not provide you with any of the typical investor protections that may exist with a registered one.

For those interested in investing in crypto-assets, check the registration of any crypto investment app that will hold custody of your funds or crypto-assets. Not all crypto-assets are deemed securities, but if an investment app holds your financial assets, it’s strongly recommended you only use one that is registered. To verify the registration of an investment app, visit CheckFirst.ca/check-registration brought to you by the Alberta Securities Commission.


2. Avoid the telltale signs of fraudulent or suspicious investment apps

Unfortunately, the ease and widespread appeal of mobile banking and investment apps is not lost on fraudsters looking to capitalize on eager investors. Fraudsters often create investment apps that imitate legitimate financial institutions and registered investment firms and promote them through online advertising or one-on-one interactions with targets. You can visit the CheckFirst Spotthespoof.ca website to learn more about these imitation websites and platforms.  Fraudsters also leverage the considerable market interest in crypto-assets to position their fraudulent investment apps as an easy way to invest in digital coins and crypto projects.

Remember these tips to avoid fraudulent investment apps:

  • Avoid unsolicited offers to download an investment app from those you meet online, like self-promoted experts, new acquaintances or love interests.
  • Check that the investment app you plan to download and use is the correct one offered by a registered financial institution or firm.
  • Be wary of investment apps with limited or broken functionality, spelling mistakes and odd in-app requests like wire transfers.
  • Conduct research online to see what others say about the investment app and if any red flags of fraud are found. Visit Checkfirst.ca/red-flags to learn what to look for.


3. Understand if the investment app is right for you.

Once you have conducted these steps, it’s important to review the fees and charges of your chosen investment app. Investment apps and platforms offered by financial institutions and firms do not have the same costs or services. Often the fees associated with trading, currency conversions and account maintenance will vary between them. Review the fee structures and the services offered and choose one that best fits your investing style, needs and expectations.

Investment apps have ushered in a new era of convenience for investors but you should still take your time to review which option is the best for you. Before you hit the download button, remember these steps to help you find a suitable and registered app for you.