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TheStreet Open House

1 in 5 Senior Citizens Fall for Financial Scams

So you don't hear a lot about the smaller cases where fragile seniors have lost their nest egg, says Connecticut lawyer Joshua Kons. His client, 91-year-old Margery Hicks, is legally blind and hooked up to oxygen in her trailer home in Badger, South Dakota. A broker invested her entire liquid net worth of $55,000 in a risky, non-traded real estate investment trust after her husband died in 2007.

That trust went into bankruptcy in 2011. Today, the former hairdresser relies on friends and family to provide food and basic necessities, says Kons.

Her former broker says in his answer to her complaint that the retiree sought him out for advice and that he explained the risks to Hicks, who was then 84. He is still in the brokerage industry. Six other customers have complained about his advice since 2009, but only one has received any money back.

Kons asked Finra for an expedited hearing, and an arbitrator is scheduled to consider both sides in May.

"It was especially important for Ms. Hicks, given that she is in poor health and has no money left," that she get a hearing quickly, says Kons. Should her health fail further, making it impossible to travel, Kons already is considering a videoconference as a backup. Visuals matter when fragile, elderly victims have lost it all.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Susan Antilla is a freelance financial writer and contributor to TheStreet.com.

She is author of Tales From the Boom-Boom Room, the 2002 book that exposed a culture of sexual harassment at financial companies, and has written about business for 3 decades. She received the "Best in Business" award for her Bloomberg View columns from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2013 and 2014. In 2013 and 2014, she also received first prize for personal opinion writing from The Connecticut Press Club. The New York State Society of CPAs gave her the Excellence in Journalism award in 2013, and the Society of the Silurians, a New York press club, gave her the Excellence in Journalism award for her columns in 2012 and 2013. She writes for The New York Times DealBook and Investopedia.com. Antilla is an adjunct professor teaching journalism at Fairfield University.

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