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Proposed Fraud Restitution Fund Advances in ND Legislature

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023   

Victims of investment-related fraud in North Dakota could soon recoup some of their losses through a proposed restitution fund. A bill to establish that kind of assistance recently cleared the state Senate. The measure, which now moves to the House, would offer payments if efforts to collect restitution, ordered by the state, are unsuccessful.

Victims would need to apply and would be given up to $50,000 or 50% of the lost money, whichever is less.

Karen Tyler, North Dakota Securities Commissioner, said while this only covers scams tied to financial markets, it still could have an impact.

"Financial criminals are very creative in the different ways that they structure their frauds," Tyler said. "And so, certainly, we are seeing romance-type scams that are connected to investment-related conduct as well."

She said romance scams are becoming more prevalent, noting they often target older individuals who lost their spouse and are seeking companionship. After meeting online, the scammer will convince them to open an investment account, with the funds eventually being stolen. The bill has sponsors from both parties and received overwhelming support in the Senate.
AARP North Dakota is among those calling for the bill's final passage.

Janelle Moos, advocacy director for AARP North Dakota, said the group knows the fund will not make victims whole, but insisted it is a step in the right direction in compelling those targeted, especially older adults, to take action.

"Older adults are often targeted because they're seen as having wealth in the form of retirement savings or a pension, steady Social Security checks, and they're at a point in time in their life that they're least able to recover financially," she said.

Moos added scammers also target these individuals because they believe it is easier to establish trust with older people. The plan calls for $1-million to be put into the fund each year. The Securities Department projected it would come from revenue generated by the agency, which is about $23-million for the current biennium.

Disclosure: AARP North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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