Medicare, Social Security, and Insurance

3/22/2023 | By Lisa Gerstner, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Andrew Hartnett, deputy commissioner of the Iowa Insurance Division and president of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), looks at frauds targeting seniors and explains how to best protect vulnerable older adults from these schemes.

Q: Protecting seniors from fraud and exploitation is part of NASAA’s mission. What types of scams and frauds targeting seniors are most active currently?

A: States and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have brought several actions against sellers of precious metals who were using fear to convince investors to move their retirement savings to self-directed IRAs and use the funds to buy precious metals coins. The sellers did not disclose large mark-ups on the coin prices, and the states and the CFTC alleged that the investors might lose one-third to one-half of their retirement savings just by saying yes.

We also continue to see classic scams, such as grandparent scams, in which a con artist poses as a grandchild in distress and asks for money. In a romance scam, a crook feigns romantic interest in a victim to gain trust and then tricks him or her into handing over money or personal information. And there are tech scams where victims are asked to pay money to get nonexistent viruses off their computers or to regain access to their photos online.

Q: How can older adults avoid falling victim to frauds targeting seniors?

A: Because scams are so diverse, there’s no single approach to help older Americans protect themselves. We need engaged family members who can talk openly about scams and the dangers they present — not only to make older Americans aware of the scams, but also to empower them in case they have fallen victim.

We also need older Americans, their families and their caregivers to understand that it’s not their fault if they have fallen for a scam. In my experience prosecuting scams, scam artists are unfortunately talented at their work. Those feelings of shame in victims can really be counterproductive and have adverse health consequences.

frauds targeting seniors- man looking shocked at computer

Q: Are you evaluating the services investment advisers and brokers provide?

A: On the investment-advisory side, there has been a development in the marketplace where investment advisers are increasingly using subscription services or other fee structures that differ from the traditional model of charges based on assets under management. This is something I think states will be focusing on more in the future. We certainly don’t want to stand in the way of efforts to right-size fee structures to better fit client needs or to provide services to additional clients, but we do want to make sure that the fees are reasonable and that the services performed are in line with those costs.

On the broker-dealer side, we’ve been doing on-site exams to see how broker-dealer firms have implemented the Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2020 regulation that requires brokers to act in a client’s best interest when recommending securities transactions, such as stock purchases. We hope to have a report later this year.

Lisa Gerstner is a senior associate editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit

©2023 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Read other articles on frauds targeting seniors in the Seniors Guide Scams and Frauds department, including Bluesnarfing and the Amazon imposter scam.

Lisa Gerstner, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Lisa Gerstner is a contributing editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit