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Wells Fargo Survey Finds Two-Thirds of Financial Crimes Against Elderly Are Committed By Trusted Individuals

Wells Fargo released its 2018 Wells Fargo Elder Needs Survey, finding that although older Americans are targeted for scams because of wealth, isolation, and/or cognitive decline, a vast majority think they personally will not fall victim to such scams, frauds, or other financial abuses.

In part, the study posits, this is because the senior survey respondents overwhelmingly and incorrectly said that strangers are the most likely perpetrator of financial exploitation, while actual statistics pertaining to financial crime say that trusted individuals—including family, friends, and other persons that the victim knows, including longtime brokers and financial advisers—are most likely to commit elder financial abuse, not the Nigerian prince looking to wire $100 million overseas.

For example, FINRA in 2016 barred ex-Edward Jones adviser Kory Penland Keath of Washington for failing to report gifts and her family's appointment of beneficiary to a 90-year-old client's trust.

FINRA found that the elderly client authorized Keath's daughter to act on his behalf under a power of attorney for health care, that the client paid nearly $12,000 in Keath's expenses when the senior took Keath on a trip to Egypt, and that the client's trust and/or will had been revised such that Keath's daughter and grandson would receive 25% of the client's estate, all of which Keath failed to report to the firm, as required.

Additionally, FINRA found that Keath herself set up the Edward Jones Trust Company as successor co-trustee, thus entitling Keath personally to 35% of its fee and nearly $45,000 in commission payments from the trust account; Keath's family received $240,000 after the client passed away.

Also in 2016, FINRA found that when Ameriprise Financial Services broker Justin Matthew Weseloh converted more than $370,000 from Ameriprise customers, several of those victimized were members of the broker's own family.

Recommendations to combat potential abuse and exploitation include putting certain protections in place, such as automatic alerts of large transactions out of an account, keeping checks/credit cards locked away, and keeping track of personal financial data, such as a credit report and updated legal documents such as wills.

If you have invested with a broker or financial adviser whose conversion, theft, or other financial abuse has proven harmful to your investments or interests, please call The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for an investigation and consultation.

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