Over the last decade, investment scams have been on the rise and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is expanding its free resources to help investors avoid fraud. According to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), 11,302 complaints were fielded by state securities regulators in 2011, up from 10,485 complaints in 2010.
Baby boomers in particular are more vulnerable to such schemes, as many are now managing their own retirement account. The NASAA says that in 2011, 577 of investment fraud enforcement actions involved abuse of the elderly – and that’s a conservative number. The actual number of cases involving seniors is believed to be much higher, but many go unreported.
The BBB recently partnered with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to launch a new website called, BBB Smart Investing (www.bbb.org/smart-investing). It is designed to help investors make informed investing decisions while avoiding fraud, risky investments and unlicensed brokers.
“The BBB has always investigated investment scams, so we are pleased to announce that this new website provides consumers with detailed guidance and tools to help them make the informed decisions,” said Su Hawk, president and CEO of the BBB of Denver/Boulder.
The BBB and the FINRA Foundation provide three key strategies to use if uncertainty about a specific investment opportunity arises:
1. Talk to someone first
Be extremely skeptical if the person promoting the deal says, “Don’t tell anyone else about this special deal!” A legitimate investment professional won’t ask you to keep secrets.
2. Turn the tables and ask questions
A legitimate investment professional must be properly licensed, and his or her firm must be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulator, depending on the type of business the firm conducts. Ask about these credentials and for proof they are held.
3. End the conversation
Practice saying “No.” Simply tell the person, “I am sorry, I am not interested. Thank you.” Or tell anyone who pressures you, “I never make investing decisions without first consulting my___. I will contact you if I am still interested.” Knowing your exit strategy in advance makes it easier to leave the conversation, even if the pressure starts rising.
Brokers and investment advisors must be licensed with Colorado Division of Securities. Verify licensing before hiring.
Visit www.bbb.org/smart-investing for tools on checking out brokers and more tips to help with your investment decisions. Also, check out companies and find BBB Accredited businesses at www.denver.bbb.org or by calling 303-758-2100.