Release Number 8545-22
CFTC Customer Advisory Encourages Older Adults to Stay Alert and Share Information About Fraud
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15
June 15, 2022
Washington, D.C. — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Office of Customer Education and Outreach today issued the customer advisory, Be Alert and Share Information to Help Seniors Avoid Fraud, in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The advisory encourages older adults to stay alert to fraud—especially on social media—and to share information that could help others avoid fraud.
Fraudsters commonly target older adults because they typically have acquired more assets over a lifetime of saving and investing. Tips in the customer advisory explain how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, such as getting a second opinion before making an investment decision, checking credentials and backgrounds of financial professionals, and staying current on fraud trends. Even an intervention from a trusted family member or friend can help older adults avoid making a costly mistake.
Recent scams targeting older adults include:
- Precious metals scams that encourage seniors to tap into their retirement savings to purchase often over-priced gold and silver coins
- Romance scams that push victims into trading digital assets or over-the-counter foreign exchange with unregistered offshore dealers
- Fee scams that promise unrealistically high profits, but steal deposits, refuse withdrawals, and demand victims invest more funds or pay concocted taxes and undisclosed fees
The advisory reminds older adults to be cautious of any person or entity that approaches them on social media, dating apps, messaging apps, or through unsolicited email or telephone call and wants to discuss trading or investing in digital assets, precious metals, over-the-counter foreign exchange (also called “forex” or “FX” trading), or other commodity derivative products.
The advisory further provides resources to help customers check registrations of financial professionals and entities, tips to help older adults stay safe online, and recommendations to have conversations about fraud.
About the Office of Customer Education and Outreach (OCEO)
OCEO is dedicated to helping customers protect themselves from fraud or violations of the Commodity Exchange Act through the research and development of effective financial education materials and initiatives. OCEO engages in outreach and education to retail investors, traders, industry organizations, and the agricultural community. The office also frequently partners with federal and state regulators as well as consumer protection groups. The CFTC’s full repository of customer education materials can be found at: https://www.cftc.gov/LearnAndProtect.
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission reminds the public that fraud criminals target older adults because they have typically acquired more assets through a lifetime of saving and investing. However, by being aware of common frauds and sharing information, you may be able to both avoid fraud and stop it from harming others.
Fraud can happen to anyone. It’s not about being gullible or incapable. Fraudsters use lies to exploit blind spots and trigger emotional reactions in their targets that nudge them into financial products they don’t truly understand or make other harmful missteps.
Dealing with major traumas and life events—such as severe changes in the health, the death of a loved one, divorce, retirement, financial setbacks, and isolation—have all been identified as increasing susceptibility to fraud. Conversely, getting a second opinion before making an investment decision, checking credentials and backgrounds, and staying current on fraud trends have been shown to reduce victimization. Interventions by family or friends also can help older adults avoid making costly mistakes.
Watch for Fraud on Social Media
Many frauds begin on social media. Fraudsters can hack profiles, create fake testimonials and profiles, and use targeted ads and discussion groups to direct their appeals to people sharing specific traits or interests. They can also use your posts and profile information to identify where you work, if you are retired, where you live, where you went to school, and your relationship status. Fraudsters then use this information to make their cons more convincing.
You should be especially cautious of anyone who approaches you on social media, dating apps, messaging apps, or through unsolicited email and wants to discuss trading or investing in digital assets, precious metals, over-the-counter foreign exchange (also called “forex” or “FX” trading), or other commodity derivative products.
Common Scams Targeting Older Adults
Precious metals scams. These scams commonly start with spam emails or videos forecasting economic collapse, government seizures, or claim to know hidden tax secrets. The messages say the only way to survive pending doom is by owning physical gold, silver, or other precious metals. Sellers push customers to use their retirement savings to buy overpriced coins. Many times, the sellers charge such high mark-ups buyers are never able to see a profit. .
Romance scams. Fraudsters commonly pose as successful people seeking friendships or romantic relationships. In a short amount of time, they are calling or texting daily, but are too shy or unable to video-chat or meet in person. Conversations eventually turn more to money and markets. The fraudsters tend to talk about their own trading successes, extravagant spending, and want to make financial plans together as couple. Once trust is built, the fraudsters offer to introduce victims to digital asset or forex trading. .
Fee scams. Fraudsters convince their victims they can earn unrealistically high profits in a short amount of time. Victims are told the more they invest, the more they can earn. Victims are shown account balances that exceed expectations, and are encouraged to invest more. But when they try to withdraw money, they must pay one fee after another such as alleged commissions, transfer fees, taxes, etc. As the supposed guaranteed profits were never real, the fraudsters steal the victim’s deposits and the additional payments. Remember, you should never have to pay more money to get your money back. .
Protect Yourself and Others
- the people or firms you trade with are registered with federal or state authorities. Relying on registration alone won’t protect you from fraud, but most scams involve unregistered entities, people, and products.
- Before trading forex, commodity futures, or other derivatives, check with , a free tool offered by the National Futures Association (NFA) to research the background of derivatives industry professionals.
- For virtual currency, see if the platform is registered as a money service business with the or with your state using the .
- Before paying for investment advice or trading securities, visit FINRA’s .
If Someone You Know is a Potential Victim of Fraud
If you suspect that someone you know is a potential victim of fraud, don’t delay having a conversation. Be sure they understand you are coming from a place of concern. The sooner you act, the less money they are likely to lose.
- Never make payments or give sensitive information to anyone you have only met online.
- Before making any investment, get a second opinion. Talk it over with a financial advisor, trusted friend, or family member.
- Don’t trade in markets or products you don’t fully understand.
- If you get cold calls from people pressuring you to trade or invest, just say ‘no’—then, hang up. Fraudsters are trained to keep you on the phone to gather information and wear you down. Don’t give them the chance.
- Build up your resistance. Learn more about fraud and stay current on the latest schemes through credible entities such as state and federal government or law enforcement agencies, including the , , , , the , , , your state or .
- Share what you’ve learned with others, especially if they are or have been victimized by fraud before.
This article was prepared by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Office of Customer Education and Outreach. It is provided for general informational purposes only and does not provide legal or investment advice to any individual or entity. Please consult with your own legal advisor before taking any action based on this information. This advisory references non-CFTC websites and organizations. The CFTC cannot attest to the accuracy of information in those non-CFTC references. References in this article to any organizations or the use of any organization, trade, firm, or corporation name is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the CFTC.