Magazine article USA TODAY

How to Avoid Wall Street

Magazine article USA TODAY

How to Avoid Wall Street

Article excerpt

While many people make investments throughout their lifetime, few are aware of the level of fraud within the market. "Investors must realize that they are their own best advocate so they need to be educated as to what their rights are as an investor," emphasizes securities attorney Dale Ledbetter, author of How Wall Street Rips You Off--and What You Can Do to Defend Yourself.

Ledbetter offers insight on the North American Securities Administrators Association's Investor Bill of Rights and how individuals can maximize protection:

* Request work history and background information of the person handling your account. While some securities fir, ms and many individual brokers are reluctant to provide this, investors should demand it. "For the most thorough information, contact your state regulator. If there is any resistance by the broker dealer regarding your information request, it's best to move on."

* Receive complete information about the risks, obligations, and costs before investing. The word complete cannot be stressed enough. It is not enough for a broker to say that everyone knows there is a "risk" Complete information should include standard deviation and/or beta of a recommended stock or fund.

* Receive recommendations consistent with your Investment objectives. The security itself first has to be suitable for the particular investor and only then should be tied to a customer's individual financial situation (customer specific suitability).

* Obtain a copy of all completed account forms and agreements. Investors are entitled to all documents relating to their account. They should be updated regularly by the broker dealer and be certain that they always have the latest data. "We see a lot of horror stories where the firms mysteriously have documents that the customer does not recall seeing," explains Ledbetter. "If you choose to have an account with a broker dealer, you owe it to yourself to carefully read and react to all correspondence received from the firm."

* Receive account statements that are accurate and understandable. Check them the same way you would check a banking statement. Ask for complete explanations about anything on the statement you do not understand fully, as failure to raise a question about a security loss or other discrepancy may allow a broker to defend himself at a later date. …

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