Massachusetts Regulator Charges Securities America with Deceiving Seniors

July 10, 2015

Massachusetts Securities Regulator William Galvin has charged independent broker-dealer Securities America with failure to supervise a broker who allegedly launched a “bait and switch” radio ad campaign. Galvin filed a complaint alleging broker Barry Armstrong ran an ad on his A.M. radio show that ‘falsely advertised one service (information on Alzheimer’s disease) to obtain contact information, and then switched out for another – financial services,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Armstrong’s radio ads offered information on Alzheimer’s disease to listeners who were then prompted to call a telephone number for more information. The number connected to a telemarketing service that collected callers’ names, phone numbers and addresses, and then passed the contact information to Armstrong’s firm. Armstrong’s firm sent the callers information on the disease along with marketing materials about his firm’s financial services.

According to Galvin, this was all done with the intention of exploiting the dangers of Alzheimer’s disease to gain access to senior citizen contact information and then pitching these seniors on the firm’s services to ultimately sell them financial advice.

In a statement from Galvin’s office, the firm’s “…failure to raise a single question about the content of the Alzheimer’s ads and the attendant mailing materials represents an utter failure that goes to the very purpose of a compliance function.”

Although Armstrong denies all charges, this is not the first time he has faced disciplinary action. He has two customer disputes documented on his FINRA BrokerCheck report; both alleging misrepresentation and one also accusing him of giving unsuitable recommendations regarding life insurance. What may be more alarming than Armstrong’s background, however, is his willingness to target a vulnerable population that is often preyed upon by fraudulent brokers.

Unfortunately, senior investment fraud runs rampant among low-tier brokerages and con artists looking to make money at the expense of older folks; some of who have limited mental capacity and limited budgets. Con artists take advantage of seniors with forceful pitches and intimidating tones – and, allegedly pure deceit.