Investor Alert: Beware of False or Exaggerated Credentials

By the Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) is issuing this Investor Alert to warn investors that fraudsters may misrepresent their backgrounds and experience to lure investors into investment schemes.

Before investing, investors should verify that any person who tries to sell them an investment product or service is properly licensed or registered and should not make investment decisions based solely on assertions regarding the person’s credentials or professional experience, including claims found on the Internet or in traditional media sources.

In order to attract unsuspecting investors and gain their trust, fraudsters may boast about credentials they do not have.  They may fabricate, exaggerate, or hide facts about their backgrounds to portray themselves as successful professionals and to make you believe that the investments they offer are legitimate.  Others may repeat these misrepresentations and contribute – perhaps unintentionally – to a fraudster’s false reputation of success and professional accomplishment.  Do not trust someone with your investment money just because he or she claims to have impressive credentials or experience, or manages to create a “buzz of success” around himself or herself.

  • Fraudsters may misrepresent their education.
  • Fraudsters may lie about having been awarded honors that they have not received or that do not even exist.
  • Fraudsters may pretend to hold certain professional titles to suggest that they have certain expertise or qualifications.
  • Fraudsters may appear as a guest commentator on financial television shows.
  • Fraudsters may use traditional media sources, the Internet, or social media to develop a public profile that gives them a false air of legitimacy.
  • Fraudsters may pretend that they have a certain position or title at a company.
  • Fraudsters may inflate their professional experience. 

Ask for details and be particularly skeptical if you do not receive direct and specific answers to your questions. Be cautious if you encounter discrepancies regarding someone’s background such as conflicting information or dates that do not add up. 

Look out for unlicensed or unregistered sellers. Many fraudulent investment schemes involve persons who are not licensed or registered. Use the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) website and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)’s BrokerCheck website to determine whether a person recommending or selling an investment is licensed or registered and if so, to check out the person’s background including any disciplinary history. 

Read the complete Investor Alert at: Beware of False or Exaggerated Credentials.

For additional educational information for investors, visit Investor.gov.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Katie Bryan | December 16, 2013

    Check out the guide from @CFPB that helps you to know which questions to ask when shopping for a financial advisor http://ow.ly/rrjYO 

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