SEC makes consumer anti-fraud tool mobile friendly
Worried about investor fraud? There’s an app for that!
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s new mobile friendly database puts the ability to check the qualifications of would-be investment advisors just a couple of clicks away on any smartphone, tablet or desktop, the agency announced this week.
A new public service campaign warning investors about dodgy, unqualified, financial advisors promotes the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database on investor.gov. Visitors can use the site to find background checks on investment firms and help avoid scammers who claim to be registered investment professionals, said Owen Donley, chief counsel for the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.
This type of fraud is one of the most common — but it is also one of the most avoidable, Donley said. While it is hard to estimate the exact number of people affected, Donley believes that these scammers take billions per year.
“This is a type of fraud that affects regular, retail investors every day,” Donley said. “The site offers an easy, efficient call to action for people to learn more about who they invest with.”
Two different commercials, a radio spot, and digital and print ads will premiere Monday during various college basketball games. In one of the commercials, the fake investor is shown with a luxurious car and house.
“Don’t let someone else live the life you’re saving for,” the commercial’s narrator says.
In September, for example, the SEC charged three men with fraud for stealing more than $14 million from unknowing investors. In December, they criminally charged a New Jersey man who made $13 million from a running a pump-and-dump scheme. In both situations, using the database would have revealed they were either unregistered or had a faulty professional past.
The campaign will begin a month after the database received a major design update, Donley said. With the updates, the site can be used with cellphones and a simpler design where people can get information in as little as two clicks, Donley said.