Over the past year Albertans of all ages experienced social isolation and felt the effects of loneliness. The good news is that with the creation and widespread distribution of vaccines, we should soon be able to reconnect in person with loved ones and friends. As we move towards these opportunities to reconnect, it is important to be mindful of the connections we re-establish and the new friendships we make.
As they always do with global events and trends, fraudsters capitalized on the pandemic to attempt to sell their investment scams (often related to the fight against COVID-19). They marketed their scams heavily through email, social media and online forums like Facebook groups in lieu of in-person interactions. These digital avenues will continue to be popular, but with the eventual reopening of in-person activities, fraudsters will again try to prey on the perceived vulnerability of seniors.
In a recent study conducted by the ASC, 54% of Albertans aged 45-64 believed they had been approached with a potentially fraudulent investment opportunity. By understanding the tell-tale signs of fraud and remembering the fundamental principles to making wise financial decisions, older Albertans and their caregivers can recognize, avoid and report investment fraud and financial abuse. Remember the following tips to safeguard your retirement savings or those of someone you care about.
Leveraging fears or anxieties: A go-to tactic of every scam artist is tapping into the financial stressors their targets may have. This could include having enough for retirement, leaving a legacy for loved ones or the fear of missing out on great investments as the economy reopens. Regardless, keep an eye out for anyone trying to tap into your fears or anxieties when offering an investment and do not share your personal financial information with new acquaintances.
New friends taking an immediate interest in your financial wellbeing: As we start to reconnect 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 do this 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 for your personal finances and private matters.
Investment offers from unregistered individuals: By law, anyone selling investments in Alberta should generally be registered with the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC). You can check by visiting CheckFirst.ca or by contacting the ASC. If the investment offer comes to you from a friend, inquire 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. Fraudsters utilize this tactic to 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 to a decision.
The reopening of Alberta is an exciting time for everyone, but remember that bad actors will look for ways to use in-person opportunities and friendships to promote their scams. By staying mindful of these tips, older Albertans and those who care for them can enjoy making up for lost time and avoid fraud.
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 at www.albertasecurities.com or call us toll-free at 1-877-355-4488.