Securities director: Most scams target seniors

Published 2:50 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

Feb. 28 summit to provide tools for protection

Most anyone could benefit from a special event planned for Andalusia later this month focusing on the way people fall victim to scams, but the information could have particular value for senior citizens, Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission said.

“Why are seniors targeted? Because that’s where the money is,” Borg said.

“Let’s talk a little bit about history. After the economic declines of 2007-08, they were the least affected. They were the folks who had been in houses quite a while. Their mortgages were low. They weren’t into the markets in the early 2000s. They grew up on savings accounts and CDs, and had banked their money.”

After the crash, America had 10,000 people a day turning 65, Borg said.

“They had equity in their houses, lower debts, and  therefore, they had accumulated wealth in trillions and trillions of dollars,” he said.

The event, set for 9:30 a.m. until noon on Thurs., Feb. 28, will be held at First Baptist Church of Andalusia. Borg is among the speakers, who also include representatives of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, the FBI, legislators, and local law enforcement.

“It will be good for seniors, and good for the general public,” Borg said.

Borg said investment scam, lottery scams and romance scams often target seniors.

“Romance scams mostly target women, obviously widows, and a few widowers,” he said. “The other part, of course, is the seniors who are being financially exploited by their own families.”

Borg said those cases are the most difficult to prosecute.

“Police departments in some areas think it’s just a family affair and not a crime,” he said. “But it is a crime.”

Earlier this week, a Dothan woman was found guilty and could face a five-year sentence for exploiting a family member.

“We’ve had law enforcement people tell us you can’t prosecute these crimes because you can’t put a victim with dementia on the stand,” he said. “My argument is that I used to try murders, and those victims didn’t get on the stand, either.”

One thing participants might be surprising, he said, is the number of investment scams that go through churches.

“By this, we don’t mean churches are scamming people,” he said. “This is more affinity fraud. People think they can trust people in their churches.”

Borg said this year, the Securities Commission is focusing on providing training for law enforcement officers to recognize the exploitation of seniors.

Since the 2008 crash, Borg said, the Securities Commission has sued major New York firms for sub-prime mortgage schemes.

“We have returned $1.3 billion back to Alabama,” he said. “About $23 million was returned to the Covington County area.”

The local fraud summit is being coordinated by the Alabama Securities Commission with support from Sen. Mike Jones and Rep. Jimmy Holley. Pre-registration is not required.