Helena, Mont.- In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, Commissioner Troy Downing reminds Montanans to be vigilant of investment scams targeting seniors. The Commissioner of Securities and Insurance is charged with protecting Montana investors from financial scams – the majority of these are perpetrated against our senior population.
“Nearly every senior citizen will, at some point, be targeted in a fraudulent scam. Elders are often targeted due to a tendency to be trusting, they are more likely to answer phone calls from unknown numbers, and in many unfortunate cases, they do not report fraud due to embarrassment or coercion,” Commissioner Downing said. “Every year we investigate and prosecute financial fraud cases. Legal actions are only part of the solution. Education and outreach are the most important tools we have to combat fraud.”
CSI investigates multiple types of investment scams targeting Montana seniors, including:
Romance Scams: Targeting lonely, often widowed seniors, scammers build a romantic relationship with a victim over the internet and phone. Sometimes these relationships can last for weeks or even months. Once trust is built, the scammer will ask for help paying for a plane ticket to visit or an emergency, such as a broken-down vehicle. In 2021, $547 million were reported lost in romance scams nationwide.
Crypto ATM Schemes: The victims receive a pop-up phishing window falsely claiming obscene and illegal materials have been uploaded to their tablet or phone. To avoid legal repercussions, the victim is instructed to withdraw large amounts of cash and deposit the money into Bitcoin ATMs. The scammer often is on the phone with the victim providing instructions and locations of Bitcoin ATMs in the area. There are thousands of these ATMs in the U.S. and at least 50 in Montana.
Grandchild Scams: Using videos uploaded onto TikTok or YouTube, scammers use artificial intelligence (AI) to copy the voice of a victim’s child or grandchild. The victim will receive a phone call from whom they believe is their loved one asking for help in an emergency. Often the caller will claim to be in jail and in need of bail money.
Pig Butchering: An unfortunately named scam where a criminal, using social media and dating apps, enters into long-term, remote relationships and “fattens up” the victim by building trust either romantically or professionally. Over time, the criminal will introduce the idea of making a cryptocurrency investment. After multiple small investments, all showing profitable returns, the victim is urged to make a large investment which is stolen by the fraudster.
Commissioner Downing advises elderly Montanans to:
- Never send money to someone you do not know.
- Appoint a trusted person to be notified if a transaction is flagged as possibly fraudulent.
- Not make payments or send money via gift cards or cryptocurrency.
- Work with a financial advisor or trusted family member before making large purchases.
- Before sending money, contact CSI if you have concerns regarding an investment or believe you are being scammed.
For questions, concerns, or to report fraud, contact the CSI Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) at 406-444-2040 or go to CSIMT.gov.
***To bring attention to elder exploitation, Commissioner Downing is speaking in Polson at the Senior Citizens Center (504 3rd Ave E) from 10:30-11:30 am and in Helena at the Montana Club (24 W 6th Ave. 6th Floor) from 5:15-6:00 pm. Media is welcome to attend.
Troy Downing is the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Montana State Auditor. Commissioner Downing is a two-tour combat veteran, businessman, and entrepreneur.