CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — In a state with one of the oldest populations in the country, New Hampshire regulators are counting on a new law to protect the growing numbers of vulnerable adults.
The law allows securities brokerage firms and investment advisers to delay disbursement of funds from an investment account if they believe it could result in exploitation, the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation said Friday. The law goes into effect Sept. 8.
"We believe this new law is a giant step forward in protecting the elderly and other vulnerable adults who may fall prey to individuals seeking to take advantage of them," Barry Glennon, director of the bureau, said in a statement. "With New Hampshire having the second-oldest average age in the country and with the increasing numbers of baby boomers approaching retirement, it is particularly important to protect an aging population."
One in five older Americans is a victim of financial exploitation each year, according to a 2016 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. The researchers found that those victims lose $3 billion annually, or more than $120,000 apiece.
Older populations are often targeted because they have nearly $18 trillion in assets, according to AARP, and because they are more likely to suffer from problems with memory and judgment.
Many of the losses go unreported.
"Older Americans are disproportionately affected by financial fraud. Although nationally, older people make up just 12 percent of the population, they constitute a full 30 percent of the victims of consumer fraud crime," said Todd Fahey, the state director for AARP in New Hampshire, adding the new law will "help prevent our members from being victims of securities fraud."
The law was part of a national push by the North American Securities Administrators Association to protect vulnerable adults. Including New Hampshire, more than 20 states have adopted legislation addressing financial abuse of vulnerable adults, said Kevin Moquin, a senior staff attorney at the bureau.
"An important result of this legislation is that we now have an added tool to enhance reporting of financial abuse," Moquin said. "We expect the numbers of these kinds of cases to rise substantially in the near future. For that reason, we focus much of our investor education on the elderly and have participated in training law enforcement to recognize signs of financial abuse of the elderly."