How to Spot Red Flags of Clients at Risk for Exploitation – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Suzanne has been 82- year old Mr. Burns’ financial planner for the last seventeen years.  Mr. Burns has been very conservative with his investments and has never made a large withdrawal from his account.  Today, Mr. Burns calls to say he would like to liquidate his account so he can travel across Europe with his new 28-year old girlfriend.  Suzanne is perplexed by this—she has never known Mr. Burns to go on a vacation other than to visit his daughter who lives a few hours away.  This is also the first time Suzanne has ever heard about a new girlfriend.

Everything might be just fine with Mr. Burns; perhaps he has finally gotten the travel bug and has genuinely fallen in love.  On the other hand, this new behavior could indicate a change in cognitive status.

Many people understand that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias include short term memory loss.  But what so many don’t understand is that unusual behavior, personality changes, lack of inhibition and getting lost in familiar places can also be red flags.

While financial planners advise and guide their clients, ultimately the client has a right to do what he wants.  Even though Suzanne may express concern about his liquidation request, she ultimately would have to follow his order. That’s why I am thrilled that FINRA has established these new rules to protect the older investor as well as the financial planner:

Beginning in February 2018, planners will have some options in cases like this.  Suzanne could put a temporary hold on Mr. Burns’ account.  She could also contact Mr. Burns’ trusted contact person who is listed on his account.  These rules offer the financial planner peace of mind when dealing with a client situation that feels “off.”

Once Suzanne exercises these options, it’s possible that it will be determined that Mr. Burns is cognitively intact. Maybe Mr. Burns knows exactly what he is doing and it will all work out fine.  He and the new girlfriend will live happily ever after backpacking across Europe.  Or perhaps Mr. Burns is being exploited and he will end up losing his life savings through a scam perpetuated by the new girlfriend.

With the implementation of these new rules, it is quite possible that Suzanne could save Mr. Burns and his family from the heartache of poor decisions made under the influence of dementia.

If you are a financial planner who wants more information about how to spot red flags of clients at risk for exploitation, join me for a webinar on the topic approved by the CFP Board: Thursday Dec 7–To register, click on I will also be on Sirius XM this week discussing this topic on Business Radio Channel 111 at 5pm EST on December 5.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.