CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia State Auditor JB McCuskey and AARP-West
Virginia joined with lawmakers to announce legislation that will help West Virginians who are
victims of scams.
The Victim Restitution Assistance bill (SB 576 / HB 3250) will establish a fund to help all victims
of securities violations, with an emphasis on helping seniors and vulnerable adults. Seniors who
fall victim to unscrupulous scams can lose their entire retirement savings, money they worked a
lifetime to save. Until now, there has been nowhere for any victims of scams to turn for help in
rebuilding their savings. This fund would provide a lifeline by authorizing restitution to victims
when their retirement accounts have been decimated by unscrupulous actors.
“We are proud to once again partner with AARP-West Virginia to help protect West Virginia
taxpayers. As the Securities Commissioner for the State, we see victims who lose their entire life
savings to these scam artists, and they are left with nothing. With SB 576, we have developed a
way to establish a fund to help all scam victims get back on their feet, without a cost to the state.
It’s a win, win.” Auditor McCuskey said. “Additionally, this type of fraud is widely under reported
because there is a sense of shame associated with falling victim to scam artists. My hope is that
with this fund, we will encourage people to come forward to ask for help, allowing my office to
identify and fight the fraud, while offering a lifeline.”
“On behalf of our 230,000 members in the Mountain State, we thank Auditor McCuskey for his
continued commitment to strengthen protections for older West Virginians targeted by those
seeking to commit financial crimes,” AARP West Virginia State Director Gaylene Miller said.
“The financial losses suffered by older victims are often greater, with more to lose from their years
of hard work, savings and benefits. This legislation will help those who have less time to
recuperate these losses and bear the devastating financial and emotional toll of these crimes.”
The Securities Commission of the State Auditor’s Office regulates those who offer or sell securities
or render advice for a fee about investments in West Virginia. A small portion of the fees, already
generated from the regulation of securities, will be set aside to fund these awards. This will come at
no cost to taxpayers and will not raise existing fees.
This fund will be for victims of scams who are awarded restitution in a final order issued by the
West Virginia Securities Commission or by a court for a violation of West Virginia Securities law
and will only be available when there is no option of recovery from the scam artist. Seniors and
vulnerable adults can request up to 50% restitution, all others can request up to 25% restitution.
Americans continue to be hit hard by a surge in investment scams. Losses in 2021 reached nearly
$1.5 billion across more than 20,000 victims, according to the FBI. This continues the stark
increases in both victims and financial losses, with reported losses by older adults more than
tripling in 2021; an increase driven in large part by a surge in reports of losses to cryptocurrency
investment scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Senator Ryan Weld and Delegate Steve Westfall are lead sponsors of the bill.
“I am proud to partner with Auditor McCuskey and AARP-West Virginia to help ensure that those
who have been robbed of their savings have a pathway to recoup their losses and help them live out
the retirement they’d planned for,” Senator Weld said. “SB 576 creates that path and that’s why
I’ve introduced it here in the Senate.”
“I am proud to sponsor this legislation and am hopeful my colleagues will work quickly to pass this
bill,” Delegate Steve Westfall said. “This restitution fund could be life changing for victims of
fraud. This comes with no additional costs so it makes good financial sense and anytime we can
help West Virginians, particularly our seniors, we should do it.”
This legislation builds on successful efforts by the WV State Auditor’s Office and AARP-West
Virginia to protect seniors. In 2020, a bill was passed to allow broker-dealers to alert the Securities
Commission when there is suspected fraudulent activity on a retirement account, so the Auditor’s
Office can stop the fraud before the funds are depleted. In 2022, another law was passed to allow
the Auditor’s Securities Commission to share information about financial fraud with DHHR’s
Senior Services division. Where there is financial abuse, there can be physical abuse and this law
has allowed the sharing of information to best protect the state’s seniors.