Scandal! Man Accused Of Pretending To Be A Registered Investment Advisor – And How You Can Avoid Falling For Similar Scams

Scandalous scandal!  According to InvestmentNews.com, “SEC accuses ‘RIA’ of using LinkedIn in alleged scam; Illinois man accused of duping investors with fictitious securities offering.”

Here’s the gist of the story, as reported by Investment News:  the SEC* filed a cease-and-desist order against Anthony Fields.  The SEC asserts that the accused offered more than $500 billion in fictitious securities through various social media websites, and that he used LinkedIn discussions to promote fictitious “bank guarantees” and “medium-term notes.”

While Anthony Fields is only accused at this point, I would like to use this incident as a teaching tool for one simple lesson:

  1. There are ways to look up information about the people you’re thinking about doing business with on the internet, and it takes mere moments.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Detail of Google search response for "Anthony Fields" on 2012-01-06

The LinkedIn profile may be gone, but he's not off the internet yet.

So, let’s say I want to do a little research on a guy I met through LinkedIn.  He sells “medium term notes” and “bank guarantees.”  His says his name is Anthony Fields, CPA, owner of Platinum Securities Brokers and Anthony Fields & Associates.  I look him up in Google and see that his LinkedIn profile is one of the first search responses.**  So I check out his bio (as archived by Yatedo.fr):

Anthony Fields & Associates will be lead by the founder Anthony Fields. Anthony Fields started his career as an intern in the Accounting Department of Continental Bank of Chicago in 1979 while in his second year of college. This internship lasted until the end of the year at which point Mr. Fields acquired a position with the accounting firm of Blumenfeld, Weiser, Friedman & Company as a proof reader of financial statements and tax returns. Mr. Fields worked his way up from proof reader to Junior Accountant in 1981 when he acquired his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Roosevelt University. In 1983 Mr. Fields advanced to Senior Accountant and acquired his Certificate of Mastery in Accounting from the Department of Agriculture’s Graduate School. And finally, in 1987 Mr. Fields acquired his Certificate as a Certified Public Accountant from the University of Illinois.

While working at BlumenFeld, Weiser, Friedman Mr. Fields responsibility was to prepare all of the receipts and disbursements of the investing activities, the Financial Statements and Tax Returns for the client’s investment portfolios managed by the affiliated firm of Weiser Investment Management, as well as other accounting auditing and tax related assignments.

In 1987 to 1988 Mr. Fields worked for the Accounting firm Foxx & Company located in Cincinnati, Ohio as a Manager in the Auditing Department, and

In 1988 to 1989 Mr. Fields worked for the Accounting Firm Hill & Taylor & Company located in Chicago, Illinois as an Audit and Tax Manager [The goofy formatting is theirs.]

Now, this biography may or may not be the case.  But if you’re thinking about buying some securities from this guy, the first thing I would do is see what their reputation is in the industry, and see if they have any disciplinary actions on record.  But how do we do that?

FINRA’s Brokercheck!  You can go to FINRA’s Brokercheck website and type in the name of the securities broker.  In this case, the person that comes up as a match isn’t the right guy, so next we’ll try…

SEC’s Investment Adviser Search!  Now you can look at the public record of Investment Adviser Representatives.  So, I type Anthony Fields in under the Adviser search option, and find nothing.  I type “Platinum” under the firm option (which will give me all Registered Investment Adviser Firms that start with “Platinum”).   I find nothing.  Is he even a CPA?  I’ll…

Search to see if he’s a CPA!  So I go to the state CPA website and search for his last, then first name under their list of membership, and various permutations.  I find nothing.

Now, I’ve looked him up at organizations where he should be listed, and he doesn’t show up.  Unless he has very good, understandable and independently verified reasons, from credible sources to not be properly registered, there’s really no reason to do business with him.

The moral of the story: with securities, it pays to look well before you leap.

* Securities and Exchange Commission

**  As I write this, the account has been taken down.

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