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.
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!
Spot and Stop Senior Investment Fraud
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.
Spot and Stop Senior Investment Fraud
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 email@example.com. 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.
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.
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 administering 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.
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.
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
A job advertisement posted on Kijiji or other internet
site states that the applicant has to supply money to be considered.
Any questions related to segregated funds
The insurance representative who sold you the fund
Alberta Insurance Council (AIC) 403-233-2929
An email or text from a bank (RBC, CIBC, Scotia, etc.) saying your account is locked
Anything related to the licensing of security
Solicitor General – Government of Alberta
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Law Day!
The Canadian Bar Association
Law Day Alberta
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
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
CSA Tools for the Client-Adviser Relationship
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.
What’s new on Checkfirst.ca?
We’ve have an updated Investor Protection section, with information to help Albertans learn ways to recognize and avoid investment fraud. You’ll also find an Emerging Trends section, which includes information on topics such as cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding.
To support investor protection, we’ve also added a Financial Literacy section to help visitors learn key investing concepts (and more) to help them make safe and suitable investment decisions.
Our Educational Videos section includes brand new financial literacy videos featuring personal finance expert Kelley Keehn, as well as other informative videos.
We’ve also added a helpful Tools & Calculators section, which includes quizzes, calculators and worksheets to help with financial planning and test your investment knowledge.
Be sure to visit the new and improved checkfirst.ca to discover all that we have to offer to help Albertans make suitable and informed investment decisions, and improve their financial literacy.
2017 was an eventful year in the financial markets, both worldwide and closer to home here in Alberta. While we were dealing with the ongoing economic slump in the oil and gas industry, there were also emerging industries and currencies, political events and natural disasters affecting markets worldwide. We covered a lot of subject matter on our blog in 2017, and had intended to showcase our top five posts. However there was a tie for the fifth and sixth most popular posts, so without further ado — our six most popular You ASC’d blog posts of 2017:
In a tie for fifth/sixth most popular blog posts last year were: Get curious about investing - #ASKASC
This post kicked off our Investor Education Month contest, where individuals were invited to submit their questions about investing and financial literacy. This was a win-win for everyone involved, as we used the questions to help build an FAQ library for our Checkfirst.ca page, participants got their questions answered, and one lucky winner received a smartwatch! To stay up to date on future ASC contest and investor education initiatives, keep reading You ASC’d and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
And: “Mindful” investing — How are we impacted by investment fraud?
This post, in honour of Mental Health Week, explores the impact that being a victim of investment fraud can have on one’s psychological well-being. The importance of protecting yourself from investment fraud, and seeking help if you have been victimized, is highlighted by the story of an Alberta man who became a victim of binary options fraud.
The fourth: Investing risks in the marijuana industry
With the federal government intending to legalize marijuana, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of interest in the industry as a potential investment. In this blog, we highlight some particular considerations for those who are interested in this new industry.
The third: Alberta seniors — tips to protect your nest egg
One of a series of posts for seniors in honour of June events such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and Grandparents Day, we highlighted tips that, although useful for anyone, are particular applicable to those in or approaching their retirement years.
The second: Lights, camera, fraud! Shining a spotlight on famous investment scams
This post, inspired by the 18th annual Calgary International Film Festival, highlighted two of the most famous frauds of all time — the original Ponzi scheme from which that type of fraud takes its name, and Bre-X Minerals, which, although it started in Alberta, received worldwide attention and was recently used as inspiration for a major motion picture.
And (drumroll please!)….the most popular YouASC’d blog post of the year is:.
Briefing you on bitcoin
Considering that cryptocurrency captured many headlines in financial news in 2017, it’s no surprise that our most popular post this year explained bitcoin. While new developments are ongoing with regards to cryptocurrencies and their regulation, this post offers a good primer including what bitcoin is, and what some of the risks surrounding it are.
There you have it – our top six most popular blog posts of 2017!
While we consider a number of factors when deciding which topics we blog about, from what’s in the news to what initiatives we have on the go, we are always open to hearing what questions you want answered. If you have a topic you’d like to see us blog about, let us know via social media or reach out our via our public inquiries office — we’re here and we’re listening.
Happy New Year –here’s to a well-informed and financially healthy 2018!
ASC Investor Alerts