In 2017, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared opioid abuse a public health emergency and estimated that 11.4 million Americans misused prescription opioids. Recent research by Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology and the Elder Justice Coalition identified a connection between opioid abuse and elder abuse, including financial exploitation.
The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) recently announced its commitment to helping with this issue by having resources available to help raise awareness of the impact of the opioid epidemic on investment professionals and their clients, especially senior investors.
Administrator, Division of Securities at State of Wisconsin, Department of Financial Institutions, Leslie Van Buskirk, said many people don’t think about how opioid abuse can lead to other types of abuse, such as taking advantages of elders financially.
DFI is currently offering two resources to help those working in finance on how to spot if an elder is being financially abused by an opioid abuser.
The first resource is a guide to help investment professionals understand the many ways opioid use disorder might affect their clients, how to spot signs of financial exploitation, and how to help clients affected by opioid abuse. The second resource is a is a checklist of questions financial professionals can use to help start a conversation with clients about the financial aftermath of an opioid addiction.
“Feel free to contact us if one of your clients is being victimized by someone,” said Van Buskirk.
She said it’s important to get the word out because the cases of exploitation, due to opioid abuse, is increasing by the year.
“Investment adviser representatives and broker-dealer agents are well positioned to be part of the solution, but they have to be prepared to talk to clients in crisis,” Secretary-designee said Blumenfeld.
Some signs to look out for and how to help:
• Take notice if your client begins making frequent requests for money.
• A sudden change in account activity is a red flag that your client may be dealing with a larger issue, particularly risky or unreasonable investment decisions.
• Keep an eye on your client’s accounts if you spot any red flags of financial exploitation. (Visit: http://serveourseniors.org/about/investors/red-flags-guardian-financial-abuse/)
• Question any changes your client might be making in terms of new names on the account or uncharacteristically large withdrawals.
According to a press release, Broker-dealer agents and investment adviser representatives are well placed to identify and detect when a client is struggling with opioids or being financially exploited by someone struggling with opioids.
“There are resources available,” said Van Buskirk.
To request a copy of these resources, contact the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions at 608-266-2139. The resources also are available online at http://www.wdfi.org/fi/securities/.