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You ASC'd Blog

We’ve created this blog to present you with answers to some of the more common questions we receive from investors. We'll have different subject matter experts blogging about what they know best and we'll update it as new blog topics arise. We hope you'll find it interesting and helpful.

 

August 22
ASC’s employees have a passion for helping Albertans – Spotlight: Dolores Ivany-Fagan

dolores-ivany-fagan650x450Blog.jpg

The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administering the province’s securities laws and is entrusted with fostering a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta while protecting investors. But have you ever wondered who are the people at the ASC, and the roles they play in investor protection? To help answer that question, recently caught up with Dolores Ivany-Fagan, a dedicated 18-year ASC employee currently serving as an Assessment Officer, to learn more about her role and her passion for helping Albertans.

What does your team do the for the ASC?
The assessment team is the first point of contact for the public when they have a concern about an investment they’ve made. Here, we start by receiving complaints from investors and begin the process to determine if it’s an issue that the ASC can assist with. Things move forward from there.

What is your role on the assessment team?
I listen to complaints, discuss the issue with the investor and then begin the overall review process. I read everything potentially related to the situation, gather the individual’s information, do background searches and then combine it all to make an assessment. From there, I make a recommendation as to whether the issue needs to be investigated or redirected to a more appropriate organization.

Why are you passionate about your role at the ASC?
I don’t like the fact that there are dishonest, conniving, and deceitful people who try to take other people’s money for improper purposes. When you’re telling someone you’re going to take their money and invest it, do that. Don’t take it to your bank account and do with it what you please. We all know how hard it is to earn money.

What are your biggest accomplishments?
Two cases that come to mind are ‘WealthStreet’ and ‘Shire’. I had a bad feeling about the two complaints that I couldn’t shake. I searched and found information that helped support moving them forward as cases of fraud. As a result, we were able to take enforcement action on both of them.

What threats do you see right now for Albertans?
A big area of concern is real estate investments – people believe that when their name is on a lease or mortgage agreement they own part of the building. They don’t realize that they are probably in second or third positions of ownership, which can cause issues in terms of getting their money back if something goes wrong. The way offering memorandums are written can be confusing; they are often quite large documents and written in complex legal terms that not everyone understands. It’s so important to understand what you’re signing.

What is your best advice for Albertans who are looking to make solid investments?
Please make sure you check the registration status of your advisor and the registration status of the company. Don’t be fooled by high pressure tactics and do some research. People will spend six months researching a new vehicle, go to the dealership and haggle for $500. Do the same for your investments – that is going to make a lot more of a difference in your future financial security than a car. If, after that, you have a level of confidence that the investment is sound and a good fit for your financial goals, only then go through with it.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca
Investor Resources

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July 31
Don’t judge a book by its cover – not all ‘experts’ are the same

Smiling-Woman-Portrait650x450-Blog.jpg

The dog days of summer are here, allowing time to relax, rejuvenate and reflect on life. Maybe you’d like to learn something new. Or you’ve picked up a motivational book you wanted to read. Maybe you’ve seen a Ted Talk that got you thinking. Maybe you’ve signed up for a self-help seminar or presentation from a visiting inspirational speaker – perhaps a popular talk show host, an international celebrity or even someone you saw on social media.

It’s empowering to hear how someone overcame adversity or became successful. You feel revved up, inspired, excited – ready to make changes to your life. While you’re at this type of seminar, you’ll likely see other presenters or exhibitors encouraging attendees to learn about whatever ‘expert’ self-improvement advice they have – how to improve your self expression, be a more aware person or improve your financial stability.

Hard stop. You know the headline speaker is genuine/authentic and the event legitimate, but that doesn’t mean that the other ‘expert’ speakers or presenters have been thoroughly vetted. It’s time to think critically – especially if one of the lesser-known speakers is promoting their own wealth management system, selling their books and/or offering up a discounted rate to their own investment sessions, software, or investment opportunity.

Before you sign up with someone who promises to “change your life” financially, be wary:

  • Don’t assume that the individual promoting a financial opportunity is legitimate
  • Be skeptical of financial promises, especially concerning ‘guaranteed high returns and no risk’ – investments that tout this are scams.
  • Don’t feel pressured to ‘buy today’ or believe threats that you’ll ‘miss out’
  • Ask yourself if the proposed investment fits with where you are financially in life
  • Watch out for the red flags of investment fraud
  • Check if they are registered to sell securities or investments and if they’ve ever had any disciplinary action taken against them in the past

Armed with these tips, go enjoy these events and gain new knowledge, ways of thinking and skills to help improve your life. Just make sure that any investment opportunities being presented are legitimate and fit with your future goals before you get swept up in the excitement and feelings of empowerment.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca
Red Flags of Investment Fraud
Recognizing and Avoiding Scams

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July 13
Connecting with Alberta seniors about investment fraud – June recap
Affinity_Fraud Seniors

The number of seniors in Alberta is growing, and Albertans aged 55 and over report being approached with potentially fraudulent investments more often than any other age group. Recognizing this, the ASC ran a strategic month-long campaign to connect directly with Alberta’s senior community.

The campaign was comprised of several elements to increase and expand our reach beyond seniors to include caregivers, family members and the general public, as well as to expand outside major cities to secondary and rural markets.

As part of the campaign, the annual Investor Index survey was completed that included a new oversample of Albertans 55 years of age and over. Key findings from the survey were leveraged throughout the campaign to drive Albertans to the CheckFirst.ca website.

We also revised the seniors page on CheckFirst.ca to better direct people to our free, unbiased resources and new items related to the campaign, including a revised ‘How Safe is Your Nest Egg’ quiz/contest and “Spot and stop senior investment fraud” brochure. A total of 678 people took the quiz – three of which are receiving a prize of a $50 Visa gift certificate!

Our CheckFirst booth appeared at events in St. Paul, Alberta and, once again, for Grandparents’ Weekend at Calaway Park. At both events, we highlighted the resources we have available to help senior Albertans increase their financial literacy and avoid investment fraud. In addition, we reached out to seniors associations and community groups in both urban and rural centres, providing details of the online quiz/contest, the CheckFirst.ca/seniors web page and other seniors resources. This represents a key step to building stronger relationships with many small communities across Alberta.


Key to extending our reach to Albertans is working with media. Our initiatives were covered in over 45 urban and rural publications, including two television interviews (CTV and Global) and CBC story related to our Calaway Park pop-up and senior fraud. In addition to driving significant interest to the CheckFirst.ca website, we reached over 1.5 million Albertans through media coverage alone in June.

Overall, we’re pleased with the number of Albertans we were able to reach– either in person or through other means – and look forward to continuing our work with the senior community throughout the year!

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Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca/seniors
Spot and Stop Senior Investment Fraud

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June 25
Know the signs of affinity fraud
Affinity_Fraud Seniors

As an informed investor, you research investment opportunities before taking the leap with your hard-earned funds. You utilize online resources and tools, and review materials provided by your financial institution or unbiased third parties like the Alberta Securities Commission.

You also might take advice from the people you trust most like a family friend, fellow congregation member or neighbour. Unfortunately, while none of us like to think about it, investment fraud is sometimes perpetrated by people we know and trust. When scam artists prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups, it’s called affinity fraud, and it happens more often than you might suspect.

There are a number of things you can do to determine if the investment being offered through a personal relationship is real or not. Before you consider investing in something, make sure you review the following checklist in order to help you spot affinity fraud:

  • Be suspicious of investments described as ‘exclusive’ or only offered to particular groups (i.e. congregation members or club members only).
  • Watch out for advisors who exploit a personal connection: while you might know the advisor from your local religious group or community center, be sure to research backgrounds and credentials regardless before making investments.
  • Beware of referrals: while your friends might be singing the advisor’s praises, they might not have conducted background checks and could have been selected by the scam artists as early influencers, who then spread the word about the scheme.
  • Don’t be hooked by spectacular returns and low risk: if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Make sure you get a prospectus, financial statements or other written information about the opportunity and review it carefully.
  • Consult a knowledgeable third party not involved in the investment such as a lawyer, banker, accountant or registered financial advisor before deciding to participate in an investment.
  • Remember that the most important step in ensuring your protection in any investment is to first check your advisor’s registration, and then consider the above items. Don’t let someone exploit your trust or friendship for their own financial gain.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca
Spot and Stop Senior Investment Fraud

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May 31
 June -  A very important month for Alberta seniors
seniors financial literacy, investor education, seniors fraud, money management

It’s estimated that by 2035 there will be more than one million seniors in Alberta (65 years of age and older), which equates to one in five Albertans. While many of us have the utmost respect for the seniors in our lives, unfortunately there are those who will exploit seniors’ often polite and trusting natures for financial gain. As such, the ASC is hosting a Seniors’ Month Campaign to provide key information and resources on financial matters to as many Alberta seniors, family members, caregivers and others who work with this important group as possible.

Early in the month, the ASC will release the results of a new research survey with specific data pertaining to seniors and their perspective on investing, financial fraud and financial abuse. Keep an eye out on this blog for more details on the data, key learnings and useful information.

We will also be offering a fun and interactive quiz for individuals 55+ years of age and older to test their financial and investment knowledge called ‘How Safe is Your Nest Egg,’ and provide prizes of $50 gift cards to five lucky people. To brush up on your knowledge before you take the quiz, the ASC encourages you to browse checkfirst.ca/seniors to read relevant materials with unbiased and helpful information. For your chance to win a $50 Visa gift card, visit checkfirst.ca/seniors from June 4 to 29, 2018 to take the quiz.

You will find our investor education team popping up across Alberta during the month, including Grandparent’s Weekend at Calaway Park on June 23 and 24. The ASC will be on site to provide information and resources, while distributing free cotton candy and games vouchers. Can’t make it to Calaway Park? The ASC will also be present at the annual Family and Community Support Services seniors event in St. Paul, Alberta.

Keep an ear out for ASC messages on radio stations across the province this month as we highlight information about how seniors can keep themselves safe when investing.

Finally, if you’re part of a seniors group in Alberta that could benefit from financial fraud or financial abuse information or resources, please connect with us directly at checkfirst@asc.ca. We also encourage you to browse our CheckFirst.ca website for additional information, tools and unbiased resources. Let us help you empower yourself and your loved ones to make wise investment decisions and avoid financial fraud.

Helpful links

May 24
Spring Clean Your Finances
financial literacy, investor education, money management

When you think of spring cleaning, a seemingly endless list of household tasks come to mind. Wash the windows, declutter your home, or tackle a long-overdue project. But have you ever considered applying that same mindset to your finances? May is the perfect time to review your finances, including your investments, to set you up for success for the year ahead.

Here are the ASC’s top tips for spring cleaning your finances:

Organize your financial documents – Spring cleaning is all about organizing and you can do the same with your financial documents. Sort through all your documents, destroy items you no longer need and organize everything you keep into a filing system that makes sense for you. If you prefer to manage your finances electronically, do the same on your computer, but be certain to backup all documents onto an external hard-drive or secure cloud service.

Review your financial statements – It’s easy to allow financial documents like bank or investment statements to pile up unopened. Take the time to open all your financial documents that you’ve received and comb through your statements. Be sure you understand the investment fees you’re paying, and how your portfolio is performing. Be sure to note any questions you have for your financial planner or investment advisor. Follow up if there are any changes to your accounts or new investments that you do not recall making.

Connect with your financial advisor – After reviewing all of your documents and compiling a list of questions, reach out to your financial planner or investment advisor for an annual check-in. This is a great opportunity to not only address the questions you have from your statements, but to also review your investments based on any life changes you’ve recently had (promotion, new job, marriage, new child, etc.) and to adjust your course accordingly.

If you don’t have a financial advisor or investment advisor? If you decide to go this route, consider meeting with a few individuals to see who might be a good fit for you. Be sure to check the registration of any investment advisor you meet with in advance. Visit CheckFirst.ca for more information on questions to ask a potential advisor and how to check registration.

Re-evaluate your budget – With 2018 into its fourth quarter, now is an excellent time to review your finances to see how you’re tracking against your goals for the year and plan ahead for any upcoming expenditures. Consider checking your budget against a worksheet like the one on CheckFirst.ca.

For more information on making wise investments, or to learn more about investing in Alberta visit CheckFirst.ca for helpful tools and resources.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca

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April 20
Securities laws: What exactly does the ASC do?

​​The law is a complex thing. There are civil, criminal and administrative branches. There are also practice areas that may seem similar but are completely different (e.g. corporate law, tax law, securities law) and various regulatory organizations. If you have an issue, or think you’ve been scammed, how do you know who to contact? Understandably, it can be confusing, so in honour of Law Day, we wanted to offer more clarity around securities law, and what exactly the ASC does and does not do.​

Who is the ASC?

The ASC is the regulatory agency responsible for administeri​ng the province's securities laws. It is entrusted with fostering a fair and efficient capital market in Alberta and with protecting investors.

The Securities Act (Alberta) is the legislation designed to ensure that Alberta’s capital market operates fairly and efficiently for participants and that investors have timely, accurate information on which to base investment decisions. It also ensures that those who sell securities in Alberta are registered and that they conduct themselves according to applicable laws and professional standards.

What is a security, actually?

Generally speaking, “securities” are issued in exchange for investing in a business. These kinds of transactions must comply with securities laws. Loans, promissory notes, shares, and units are just a few of the examples of things that are considered securities. In a nutshell, if you give someone money and expect to make a profit from their efforts or those of a third party, it’s probably a security and they’ll need to comply with securities laws.

In addition, anyone in the business of helping to find investors for persons or companies needing funding or advising people about investing may also be subject to securities laws. They may need to be registered, for example, as an investment dealer, adviser or an exempt market dealer – unless they are relying on an exemption from the registration requirement.

The bottom line is, if people are being asked to make a loan or other investment, securities laws need to be followed.

What do people mistakenly contact the ASC about?

The ASC does not administer any laws other than those under the Securities Act (Alberta), but we often receive inquiries regarding matters don’t fall under our jurisdiction. While we’re always happy to point people in the right direction, ultimately, you’ll need to connect with the appropriate organization to address questions or complaints that aren’t securities-related. Here are some issues that the ASC is often approached in regards to, and where they should be directed instead.

​Issue ​Typical Details Who to contact

​CRA Scam

There are multiple variations on this scam:

A call purportedly from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) saying you owe money, and threating to take severe action if it is not paid immediately. 



A communication purportedly from the CRA requesting personal information (social insurance number, credit card number, bank account number), or urging you to visit a (fake) CRA website to input this information, so you can receive a tax refund.​

​CRA 1-800-267-8999



Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 

​1-888-495-8501
www.fightspam.gc.ca​

​Job Scam

​A job advertisement posted on Kijiji or other internet site states that the applicant has to supply money to be considered.

​Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
1-888-495-8501

www.fightspam.gc.ca

Any questions related to segregated funds​


​The insurance representative who sold you the fund

Alberta Insurance Council (AIC)  403-233-2929​

Bank scam​

An email or text from a bank (RBC, CIBC, Scotia, etc.) saying your account is locked​​

​Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
1-888-495-8501

Anything related to the licensing of security guards​

​Alberta Solicitor General – Government of Alberta

www.solgps.alberta.ca​

​Any issues related to the purchasing of goods or services, which are not securities/investments on Kijiji, Craigslist, EBay or other online sale sites

Help Desk/Fraud Desk for the specific website on which you made the transaction; contact information will be on each site

Anything related to Olympia Trust or other trust companies in Alberta ​

​Disputes regarding fees, accounts, etc.

Superintendent of Financial Institutions Alberta

www.finance.alberta.ca/business/fin_inst/​

If you do have a question related to securities and investments, contact our Public Inquiries Office toll-free at 1-877-355-0585 or via email at inquiries@asc.ca. Happy Law Day!

Helpful links

The Canadian Bar Association

Law Day Alberta​​

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April 06
Taking the fear out of finances—A look back on Fraud Prevention Month 2018

The ASC just wrapped-up another jam-packed Fraud Prevention Month. The theme of our 2018 online campaign was ‘The F-Word,’ a humorous way to demonstrate that talking about finances does not have to be a negative experience. We encouraged Albertans to visit our newly re-launched consumer website, CheckFirst.ca, home to a brand-new series of Investor 101 videos as well as other free tools to learn about investing. These resources can help Albertans arm themselves against investment scams by learning key financial concepts and becoming aware of some of the red flags of fraud.

We also took to television screens across the province via our Public Service Announcement on CTV. Our objective was to remind Albertans that the ASC is here to help them learn ways to recognize and avoid investment fraud. If you didn’t see our PSAs during their run in during February and March, check them out here.

Once again, we took the CheckFirst Café out to tradeshows to engage directly with public. This year, we set up shop at the Calgary Outdoor Adventure and Travel show and the Edmonton Boat and Sportsmen’s Show, where we served coffee and investor education tips to show-goers. Over the course of both shows, we connected with approximately 6,000 Albertans, reminding them to research and check registration before investing and to educate themselves on the red flags of investment fraud.

Finally, as a way to test what Albertans learned through the month, on March 28 we hosted a Facebook live video event with financial expert Kelley Keehn. The event, called ‘Fact or Fraud,’ was a jeopardy-style quiz show with a focus on finances.

Thanks to all Albertans who connected with us, whether it was in-person or online — we hope we helped you improve your financial literacy. As always, when it come’s to investing, remember to CheckFirst.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca

Investor Resources​​

March 15
Investor rights: A primer

Investment opportunities can be as unique as individuals. Indeed, what’s perfect for one person may not work at all for another. There are different types of investments available, and numerous individuals and firms offering them. Each will offer different opportunities, have different characteristics that make them unique. It’s important to find the one that is right for you, and to check first before choosing to work with any financial professional or firm.* Once you have, however, some rights that you have as an investor are consistent across Canada. We’re listing them today in honour of World Consumer Rights Day.

*Not all investments must be sold by an individual or firm registered under the Securities Act (Alberta) - for example, segregated funds or GICs. However, generally anyone, regardless of what title they use, who is in the business of selling or advising on an investment that is a security (for example a mutual fund, share, stock, bond) must be registered under the Securities Act (Alberta)), and for the purposes of this blog, we are referring to individuals and firms who are registered.

Know your rights:

When opening a new investment account – A financial professional is required to provide a description of the following: the type of account you are opening; the services offered (not all registered firms and individuals can offer all types of services or products); the risks you should consider when making an investment decision; any potential conflicts of interest; the types of charges you will pay in relation to your account; any compensation paid to them by third parties in relation to your account; and the content and frequency of reporting you will receive in relation to your account. This information must be provided to you before you are provided with any services. If, at any time during which you hold the account, this information changes, the financial professional must provide you with notice of any applicable changes.

When making a transaction – With certain types of accounts, the following information must be disclosed to you even before a security can be bought or sold on your behalf: any charges you will have to pay for the purchase or sale; whether or not you will be required to pay a deferred sales charge on any subsequent sale of the security and the fees that will apply; and whether the financial professional will receive any trailing commissions for the transaction. With certain types of securities, including mutual funds, investors have up to 48 hours after agreeing to a purchase to change their minds and cancel the transaction. (Note that this is not applicable to all investment transactions, particularly those on an exchange.)

On an ongoing basis – In addition to account statements and trade confirmations, many financial professionals are required to provide you an Investment Performance Report and an Annual Charges and Compensation Report on a yearly basis. The Investment Performance Report should list the market value of your investments as at the beginning and end of the 12-month period covered by the report; a summary of the change in value of your account; and the rates of return of your account over time. The Annual Charges and Compensation Report should list the compensation that the financial professional received directly and indirectly in relation to you account. This includes charges that you paid directly to them and compensation that they received from third parties.

When investing in a mutual fund – There is a document that is specific to mutual funds that must be provided to all potential investors. Known as “Fund Facts,” it lists: the costs of buying, owning and selling the fund; sales charge information (illustrating the differences if multiple series of the fund exist); fund expenses (investors don’t pay these directly, but they affect you because they reduce the fund’s returns); any other fee information; and other information about the fund including who to contact, and how to get a copy of the simplified prospectus or other disclosure documents about the fund.

Remember, it’s our job at the Alberta Securities Commission to regulate people and companies offering investments – so contact our Public Inquiries Office toll-free at 1-877-355-0585 or via email at inquiries@asc.ca with concerns you may have about an investment you’re considering. If you have a consumer issue or question that is not investment-related, it would be best directed to the Government of Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

Helpful links

Consumers International

CSA Tools for the Client-Adviser Relationship

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March 06
Don’t be afraid of the F-Word (*finances*)

Another jam-packed Fraud Prevention Month is upon us, with a focus this year on improving Albertans’ financial literacy as a means to help them avoid investment scams.

Early this month we released the results of on online survey we commissioned that uncovered some of the negative and uncomfortable feelings that Albertans have related to their finances. In fact, when asked Albertans how they would rate being tested on their financial literacy to other common fears, their view is that it’s comparable to swimming with sharks or presenting in front of a large audience. These are big fears!

That’s why during the month of March we’re encouraging Albertans to increase their financial literacy. We’re doing so via an online campaign that demonstrates that learning about ‘The F-Word’ – in this case, finances – does not have to be a negative experience. We’re encouraging Albertans to visit our newly re-launched consumer website, CheckFirst.ca, which hosts a series of Investor 101 videos as well as other free tools to learn about investing. These resources can help Albertans arm themselves against investment scams by learning key financial concepts and becoming aware of some of the red flags of investment fraud. As a way to test what Albertans have learned through the month, on March 28 we’ll be hosting a Facebook live video event with financial expert Kelley Keehn.

Our investor education team will also be popping up at tradeshows in Calgary and Edmonton to serve coffee and investor education tips to show-goers. We’ll be connecting with Albertans at the Edmonton Boat and Sportsman show from March 15 – 18 and the Calgary Outdoor Adventure show from March 24 -25 to chat about the importance of researching and checking registration before investing.

Helpful links

CheckFirst.ca

Investor Resources

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