Seniors, pre-retirees, and investment fraud

Last week, the Vancouver Sun ran a series on pensions that explored what retirement is looking like for an aging population of Canadians – from living longer, to having an adequate pension (or not), to paying off household debt.

We were able to add our voice with an opinion piece that ran in today’s paper. In the piece, we talk about the ongoing uncertain economic environment. This situation has produced a new reality for people looking at retirement that includes low interest rates, as well as lacklustre returns and protracted volatility in conventional markets.

This kind of economic environment creates uncertainty for those looking for a steady retirement income that will keep them near their current standard of living. In our piece, we argue that this uncertainty creates a potential for investment fraud.

This is because fraud artists see unlimited opportunities to take advantage of investors in search of quick, solid returns. They prey on the most vulnerable – those who are trying to find ways to pay for their retirement in a hurry, and seniors who want to supplement their fixed incomes.

We know British Columbia is fertile ground for fraud artists because we have large concentrations of seniors and pre-retirees in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

A 2009 national study by the Canadian Securities Administrators found that BC is 10% higher than the national average when it comes to being approached with an investment scam. That fact coupled with the finding that British Columbians are the most likely to say that they have an aggressive investment style, (with 38% agreeing with that statement), suggests that BC residents may be particularly vulnerable to investment fraud.

Research has also shown that over-confident men in their 50’s represent one of the most susceptible groups of investors.

So what can people do to protect themselves? They can learn to recognize the five warning signs of investment fraud. Take some time to read over this section of our website if you are retired or thinking about retirement.

The best defence against fraud is a savvy and sceptical investor who recognizes fraud artists and the investment scams they promote.