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  • Rita Rhodes

Do you know where your identity is?

Here we are, in December. Finally. We’ve made it this far in the marathon that is 2020. Just a short sprint through the holidays, and then we’ll be in a brand-new year. We can do this! As if 2020 hasn’t given us enough to deal with, my father-in-law was the victim of an internet scam last week. He’s not your typical naïve senior citizen. He is an intelligent, college-educated, well-read octogenarian, who worked for nearly six decades as an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry. We thought he was well-versed in cybersecurity and internet safety. And yet he fell prey to an elaborate scam that will undoubtedly take a very long time to untangle. Reflecting on this situation, it occurred to me that this holiday season may be especially difficult for those who are already considered vulnerable. Many parts of the country are experiencing restrictions on holiday gatherings, which for some people may be the only time of the year that they see their loved ones. Prolonged isolation and loneliness can take a toll on a person’s mental well-being, and make them especially susceptible to wanting to connect with and trust people who may take advantage of them. Because of that, I encourage you to take some time this month to review your policies and procedures on dealing with vulnerable clients and identifying diminished mental capacity, elder abuse, and financial exploitation. The North America Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has a website, ServeOurSeniors.org, dedicated to senior issues and diminished capacity that includes a wealth of resources on these topics. NASAA adopted a Model Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation in 2016. Many state regulators have used this Model Act as a basis for creating regulations for financial professionals regarding these issues. Your local Adult Protective Services agency can provide guidance on when and how to file a report of suspected abuse or exploitation. In addition, the federal government enacted the Senior Safe Act in 2017 that protects financial professionals from liability when making a report about the potential exploitation of a vulnerable person. If your policies and procedures don’t already include information on how to identify potential incidents of diminished mental capacity, elder abuse, or financial exploitation, or how to deal with these issues if you suspect one of your clients is a victim, I recommend that you take a look at adding appropriate language in accordance with your applicable state or federal regulations. We are now in the busy holiday shopping season, and more shopping is occurring online this year in light of the pandemic. Now would be a good time to educate your clients (and children and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors) about potential scams and phishing attacks. Remind them about cybersecurity and how to have good internet hygiene. Verify the source and authenticity of emails before clicking any links or opening any attachments. Phone numbers can easily be spoofed, so don't give out personal information to unsolicited callers on the phone. Other great tips are available on the Federal Trade Commission website. I also encourage you to take a moment to reach out to any clients – or anyone else – who might be struggling during this holiday season to make sure they’re okay. Take care of yourself, and take care of those around you. Reminders of upcoming compliance tasks:

  • Preliminary renewal statements are due December 14. Make sure the appropriate amount has been deposited into your IARD/CRD Flex Funding Account before the due date.

  • Final renewal statements will be available on the IARD/CRD E-Bill system on January 2. Payment of final renewal fees (if any) is due on January 22.

  • If your fiscal year end is December 31, start gathering the data needed for your annual ADV update in January. The annual ADV update needs to be filed by March 30.

Best wishes for a very happy holiday season to you and your family. As always, let me know if you have any questions. Happy to help! Peace, Rita

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