Wednesday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and it was only fitting to announce that elderly Montana fraud victims received compensation from a special state fund. 

In a news release on Wednesday;

State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen announced the order of more than $200,000 in restitution to Montana victims of a pair of major financial frauds, which brings the total paid by the Montana Securities Restitution Fund beyond the $1 million mark, benefiting more than 75 different Montanans.

The fund was established by the Montana Legislature in 2011, and further legislation in 2015 doubled the possible restitution and expanded the potential criminal penalties for financial crimes that victimize seniors or other vulnerable people.

“The Restitution Fund is a big step toward getting some money back to victims of financial fraud, but it doesn’t come close to recovering everything,” Lindeen said. “That’s why we work hard to educate seniors and their families, to give them the tools to help prevent anyone else from losing their life savings to financial criminals.”

One of the scammers was Jack Cross, a Lake County man now in federal prison for wire fraud. He told victims he was putting the money into real estate and other investments, when actually he was using the money for his own personal benefit.

The other scammer was Paul Schumack, a Florida man who defrauded 1,800 investors nationwide in an $80 million Ponzi scheme. Schumack, now serving a 12-year federal prison sentence, told victims they were investing in “virtual concierge” kiosks, like ATMs, to be placed in hotels, hospitals, stadiums and other public places.

Lindeen urges seniors to take steps to protect personal data and to be wary of any investment opportunity that promises large returns for little risk. If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.