Mayday, Mayday! Phony “Senior Specialist” Designations on the Rise!
~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~
You’ve probably received about a thousand in the mail: cards and brochures inviting you to attend a seminar on smart investing, and they’ll even include lunch! I’m sure you’ve heard the many warnings that accompany these targeted events as well never give personal or financial information, don’t get pressured into making a rash investment decision, and above all, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Because many seniors are getting wise to the tactics used by crooks who sponsor some of these seminars in order to grow their lists for future harassing phone calls and scams, con men and unscrupulous businessmen have to come up with new ways to lure potential victims. The most recent tactic on the rise is the use of “Senior Specialist” designations and titles.
While some designations have been earned through proper education and training, unfortunately the numbers of bona fide specialists in the field have been diluted by those who seek to use this title as a way to trick people. They hope to persuade seniors into following them with less scrutiny and with a greater degree of trust. Many con men pose as specialists in the areas that affect seniors most, such as retirement or estate planning and investing.
Once a fraudulent salesman has gained the trust of his intended victim, either through the use of a “Senior Specialist” designation or some other title that he hasn’t earned, the door is open for a variety of investment and financial scams.
So what can you do to protect yourself against such threats? Truly, the safest way to prevent becoming a victim is to avoid free lunch seminars and investment presentations altogether. However, if you do attend a seminar or choose to speak with a person using a “Senior Specialist” or other impressive designation, here are the top three things to keep in mind:
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to question credentials, legitimacy of an offer, or to put off a decision until you’ve had time to think through it. Trustworthy advisors and brokers will never put pressure on you to make a split-second decision, and they will always be happy to answer your questions. Most often, if a crook has to field too many questions, he’ll run the other direction before he’s discovered.
- Research. Call your local regulatory agency and make sure that both the person conducting the sale and the security they are marketing are properly licensed and registered. Also make sure that the broker or advisor is in good standing and doesn’t have any previous enforcement actions on record.
- Report. If you feel you may have already become the victim of a fraud, please report it to us. You can call (303) 894-2320 or visit www.dora.colorado.gov/dos. There’s no shame in falling for a scam people from all walks of life do it every single day.