The state of Iowa is embarking on a program to educate hundreds of Iowa volunteers who will in turn provide basic investment counseling to the elderly.
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss says too often adult children discover their elderly parents have made questionable investments — and it’s too late to do anything. “They either go to a group meeting or they get a solicitation or even they have an agent or an investor dealer who says ‘You ought to consider rolling your money over into this kind of product’ and they don’t do enough investigation,” Voss says. “So there’s really a lack of information and what we’re trying to do is have people in the communities be volunteers to help people.”
Voss and others will train members of the state’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program — called RSVPs — to counsel elderly Iowans on investments. “Then (the volunteers are) in the communities and they’re people that (the elderly) know so they’re not calling an 800 number in Des Moines and talking to a stranger,” Voss says.
It’s modeled after a successful program in California. “It’s all based on money we’ve gotten from the investor community that were ‘bad boys’ and got fined, so no state money is going into this program,” Voss says.
Iowa Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson says it’s all about providing seniors with unbiased information to protect them from con-artists or investment schemes that don’t make financial sense for them. “We want to protect seniors from a growing threat and that is investment fraud. Make no mistake about it, investment fraud is big business and last year over 24 million adults fell victim to fraud,” Pederson says. “Here in Iowa over the last five years, Iowans lost over $20 million to con artists and older Iowans are a primary target.”
Pederson says not every senior is apt to be subject to this kind of fraud but many are potential targets because they have a nest egg or own their home. “Therefore, those people who are unscrupulous are going after them,” Pederson says. “This education program will alert them to the things they need to know to avoid making any investment with any fraudulent corporation or group of people.”
Voss, the state insurance commissioner, counsels all Iowans who’re considering an investment to “stop, call and confirm.”