AARP equips Hawaii's seniors against fraud

Fraud techniques include 'Phantom Riches,' 'Social Censensus,' 'Affinity'

Published  1:56 PM HST Mar 13, 2013
HONOLULU -

Think you're too smart to fall for a scam?  That's what the con artists are hoping for.

Investment fraud is a growing problem and the most common victims are our seniors.

They're the members of our population with the most assets they've accumulated wealth over time.  And that's one major reason seniors are the biggest target for scam artists.

“They have a nest egg and someone’s always trying to get that next egg away from them,” said Lori Schock from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Seniors like May Imamura-Uru, 72, says she's been contacted by a few people who seem pretty shady.  She hasn't bitten.

“I’ve been pretty successful and I haven’t been caught in any one thing, yet,” said Imamura-Uru.

The workshop hosted by the AARP Hawaii at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu is one of several being held statewide as an effort to protect the hard earned assets of Hawaii’s families.  Its goal is to help more seniors be like May.  Their best tool:  information.

“Just because you came to a free lunch, free dinner, free round of golf, whatever it is, doesn’t mean you have to turn over your lifetime savings to anyone,” said Schock.

Con artists are smooth.  They’re masters of persuasion with a lot of tactics to swoon and sway seniors out of their money.

Tricks like "Phantom Riches" -- enticing you with something you want, but can't have "Social Consensus" -- leading you to believe if everyone else is doing, it must be a good investment.

Or the "Affinity" tactic, which often works in Hawaii.

“Hey, look!  We’re members of the same religious organization or cultural group or we’re in the military together.  People will use that affinity against them,” said Schock.

“Trusting and loving and caring and being part of a big ohana is so important and you should still do that.  But just be really careful when you’re separating yourself from your money,” said Tung Chan, Securities Commissioner, Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Experts say ask questions and always check your investments.

“You can verify with your state securities regulator or with the federal regulator, the information on the background of the salesperson as well as the products they’re selling,” said Schock.

“If you don’t understand it, it’s not for you to buy,” said Chan.

Links to protect seniors against fraud:

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