Investors who are the most vulnerable to financial exploitation are getting a new layer of protection. The added protection comes in the form of two new rules created by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra), which is authorized by Congress to oversee the brokerage industry.
Under the first rule, when a customer opens an account or updates information in an account, a brokerage must ask whether the customer wants to designate someone who is at least 18 years old as a “trusted contact” and provide contact information for that person. Of course, the decision of whether to provide this information, which is optional, will be based in part on whether the investor feels comfortable choosing someone to fill this role. (Existing customers can choose to add the information to an account even before the brokerage asks for it.)
Under the second rule, if you are 65 or older, your broker is permitted to put an initial hold of up to 15 business days on any questionable disbursements of funds or securities from your account if he/she reasonably suspects that you are being financially exploited. Reason for the 65-or-over rule: Seniors lose about $3 billion annually to fraud and scams, often because diminishing physical and mental abilities make them less attentive and easier targets for con artists. Once assets leave a brokerage because a customer has been conned by an outside fraudster, it’s very difficult to recover them.
A 15-day hold gives the firm time to investigate the suspicion, contact you and (if necessary) your trusted contact…or even reach out to law enforcement or adult protective services. Your trusted contact could provide information about your health, your whereabouts and/or other information to help the firm decide whether there is a problem and how to deal with it. In the past, even if a broker knew how to contact, say, a customer’s family members, privacy restrictions made it difficult to do so.