People who get bilked by investor fraud have certain common characteristics, according to recent studies. The American Association of Retired People (AARP) Fraud Watch Network completed a survey in 2016, looking at the demographics of fraud victims. Previous surveys have found that investment fraud victims are better educated, financially literate males, usually older than average with better than average incomes. Those are the people one would think would have better resistance to fraud.

What Kind of Fraud?

Identity theft and Ponzi schemes are among the most common types of fraud. Fake Internal Revenue Service calls, emails addressed from overseas or from royalty of various nationalities, or apparent appeals from family members are also common.

Stealing from seniors is a major industry in America. Estimates are that $35.5 billion are bilked from seniors annually (estimates range but suggest the number is at least $3.6 billion). Approximately 37 percent of seniors are affected by financial abuse in any five year period (46 percent to “financial exploitation,” 35 percent to “criminal fraud,” and 19 percent to abuse by caregivers (family members, friends, lawyers, or financial managers).

Since traditional pensions have declined in recent years, many relatively inexperienced Americans are investing their money, and the technology-driven investment market has become faster and more complicated.

Vulnerability of those Who Make Themselves Available.

The Fraud Watch Network survey interviewed 200 known victims of fraud and 800 members of the general investing public. The study showed that it is not the naturally vulnerable people, like widows, the very old, or people with severe memory loss who are the victims. Risk of fraud depends on exposure. It is those who expose themselves to the marketplace who are at greatest risk. Seniors who are among the youngest, urban and college educated who lose the most money. The friendliest seniors, most approachable, giving strangers the benefit of the doubt, are the ones who lose the most, four times more than average seniors.

The most vulnerable seniors are the people who are most open to new opportunity. They are the same kind of people who lose money in any kind of opportunity-driven venture, like entrepreneurial opportunity. The most vulnerable people are those who are less inclined to rely on regulation or oversight. They tend to trade more actively than the general population. Those who are victimized most are the ones who value wealth accumulation as a measure of success.

Warning Investors Not to Be So Ambitious.

The AARP has undertaken a campaign to warn its members. For instance, they strongly recommend investing in bonds, which they view as the safest investments.

Like many campaigns intended to warn, these campaigns are likely to be resisted by the very people who need the warning the most. Most aggressive opportunity-seekers are more wary of warnings than they are of schemers. The people who read and attend to warnings are the cautious.

An article covering the relationship between risk and return can be applied to the attitudes of senior risk-takers as to other groups. Among seniors, as a particularly preyed-upon group, risks may be more substantial than they are for other groups. However, as the article points out:

“Those who do not bear risk very well have a relatively smaller chance of making high earnings than those with a higher tolerance for risk…”

It’s difficult to believe that those active investors (of any age) will become less inclined to take risks because of the likelihood of fraud. The risk of fraud is just another risk factor in a free market. Some seniors are just so familiar with the habit of risk-taking that they will not be able to modify their behavior because of the existence of the potential for fraud.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a high-performance, boutique law firm committed to eradicating unethical business practices. Please contact us to learn more.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986