Helping prevent fraud

Three community members are training to help prevent older Iowans from loss of investments through fraud. Luverne Bierle, Joanne Pohlman and Chuck Smith attended a training seminar at the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) office in Webster City for Seniors Against Investment Fraud (SAIF).

The SAIF program, through a 2008 partnership with the Iowa Insurance Division and RSVP projects across Iowa, aims to recruit volunteers to be trained to present information peer-to-peer on how to recognize investment fraud, how to stop it from occurring, where to report it and how to confirm the credentials of a salesperson.

SAIF is funded using money that has been received from insurance fraud settlement agreements. The program’s goal is to have those volunteers hold 12 presentations to community members to share that information.

Becky Koppen, RSVP volunteer coordinator, said there are many kinds of scams that seniors are subjected to. That includes calls where a person posing as a family member in a foreign jail asks for money to be wired to them so they can make bail. Investment scams that promise no risk with high yields are also common.

“There’s no such thing as a high rate of return on investment with no risk, it just doesn’t happen,” Koppen said.

She said that seniors should not invest in any money that they can’t afford to lose. Seniors are targeted by scammers for several reasons. Koppen said seniors are easily accessible at home, they can be less suspecting of fraud and they have more monetary resources available to them.

The three SAIF volunteers are still training and refining their presentations. Koppen said the information they learn will be useful to pass along to others.

“They don’t claim to be experts in the field of investments. Just passing along information, peer to peer, to try and prevent people in their community from getting ripped off,” Koppen said. “They’re just very concerned about this issue, and some of them might have had friends that have been the victims of fraud and it’s almost impossible to recover that money once it’s gone.”

When those volunteers finish training, Koppen said they will be available for any groups that would be interested in hosting a SAIF presentation. Any interested parties are encouraged to contact Koppen at 832-2525.