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Investor Education

Investigate before you invest

Before investing with a financial professional, be sure to check the registration status and background of the agent, broker-dealer or investment adviser. 

Public information regarding the registration status and disclosure history of broker-dealers, agents, investment advisers and investment adviser representatives is available via FINRA’s BrokerCheck tool. The Investment Adviser Public Disclosure is an electronic filing system that facilitates investment adviser registration, exempt reporting adviser filing, regulatory review, and the public disclosure information of registered investment adviser firms and individuals.

  • FINRA Arbitration Awards Online - This database provides the full text of arbitration awards issued by arbitrators at FINRA and at other forums. 
  • FINRA Disciplinary Actions Online - This database provides FINRA disciplinary actions that were issued during 2005 or later, and are eligible for publication pursuant to FINRA Rule 8313 (Release of Disciplinary Complaints, Decisions and Other Information). The database also includes opinions issued by the SEC and federal appellate courts that relate to FINRA disciplinary actions that have been appealed. 

Keep your personal information safe and ask questions about cybersecurity

As an investor, you can help ensure your personal financial information is secure when using online investment accounts and ask questions and get information from financial professionals about their cybersecurity practices. Commerce offers investors the following best practices with online accounts:

  • Protect your online accounts: Create a strong password and use different passwords for different accounts. If one password were compromised, all of your accounts using that password would be vulnerable too. Remember to change your password every few months. 
  • Access your accounts safely: Make sure your anti-virus, firewall and other security software are up-to-date. Avoid using public wireless networks that don’t require a password. Check for the padlock icon in the corner of the browser that signals the website you are using is encrypted and be sure to log out of your account when you are finished.
  • Monitor for suspicious activity: Make sure your anti-virus, firewall and other security software are up-to-date. Avoid using public wireless networks that don’t require a password. Check for the padlock icon in the corner of the browser that signals the website you are using is encrypted and be sure to log out of your account when you are finished.
  • Update software regularly. Run software updates on your home and business computers.

You should also hold your investment and financial professionals accountable for cybersecurity. Think about the safety of your personal financial information, and talk with your investment professionals about what steps firms are taking to safeguard client information.

Ask questions about cyber-security. Before you make an investment, be sure the firm or individual selling you the product has a satisfactory plan in place to protect your private financial information from cybersecurity threats. The Commerce Department suggests using the following questions to assess the strength of a firm’s or individual’s cybersecurity.

  • Cyber preparedness: Has the firm addressed which cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities may impact its business?
  • Cybersecurity compliance program: Does the firm have written policies, procedures, or training programs in place regarding safeguarding client information?
  • Cyber insurance: Does the firm maintain insurance coverage for cybersecurity?
  • Cyber expertise: Has the firm engaged an outside consultant to provide cybersecurity services for your firm?
  • Cyber confidentiality: Does the firm have confidentiality agreements with any third-party service providers with access to the firm’s information technology systems?Cyber incident: Has the firm ever experienced a cybersecurity incident where, directly or indirectly, theft, loss, unauthorized exposure, use of, or access to customer information occurred? If so, has the firm taken steps to close any gaps in its cybersecurity infrastructure?
  • Cybersecurity safeguards: Does the firm use safeguards such as encryption, antivirus and anti-malware programs? Does the firm contact clients via email or other electronic messaging, and if so, does the firm use secure email or any procedures to authenticate client instructions received via email or electronic messaging, to work against the possibility of a client being impersonated?

Financial Planner FAQs 

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has produced this helpful guide to answer your questions about Securities Agents, Financial Planners and Investment Advisers. You will learn what to ask, what to expect, and what to avoid when you receive investment advice.

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