There has been a recent trend of investment fraud targeting older investors. Scam artists will advertise free meals to entice seniors to listen to their sales pitches and will use designations that imply that they specialize in helping older investors. More and more investment professionals, insurance agents, and other individuals are using misleading titles. These designations may sound impressive, but they are nothing more than a marketing device. Once trust is built, it is easier for fraudsters to take advantage of older investors.
While there are some organizations that give a “senior specialist” designation after someone has met strict requirements, there are others that freely give it away. You should not put your trust in someone solely based on this title. Some investment representatives target senior investors and will pressure them to put their money in unsuitable investments. These salespeople will hold “free lunch” seminars and engage in high-pressure sales.
Unfortunately, they are often focused more on their own agenda and fail to look out for what is best for their senior clients. If you are considering investing your money with someone who is using a senior specialist designation, you should do some homework first. Call your state securities regulator and research the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck to learn more about the investment representative.
There is a reason why so many financial professionals use designations. They recognize that these titles conjure up trust and authority in the eyes of their clients. Seniors have been especially prone to the abuse that accompanies professional designations. One study discovered that 46 percent of older investors were more likely to take financial advice from someone who was using a professional designation.
FINRA has reported that there are at least 95 professional designations for financial advisers. The Wall Street Journal apparently found at least 115 other financial credentials not tracked by FINRA. Keep in mind that FINRA does not allow brokerage firms and brokers registered with the agency to reference "nonexistent or self-conferred degrees or designations." In addition, these brokerage firms and brokers are prohibited from referencing designations in a misleading way.
Despite the high number of financial credentials being used in the industry, there are some that are more established and stringent than others. Among these designations are:
Other designations, such as Certified Retirement Financial Adviser, are not as difficult to obtain.
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