Your power as an investor starts with information

Registration helps investors like you know who to trust.

Reliable investment advice is hard to come by. How do you know whom to turn to and whom to believe? How do you know how to steer clear of investment scams and fraud?

Securities industry professionals are required to register with provincial and territorial securities regulators where they do business. Their registration and good standing help reassure investors that the firms and individuals they deal with are properly qualified and that there are no disciplinary actions against them.

This site is designed to give investors like you insight into how regulation and registration help you to avoid investment scams and fraud and to help you choose an investment professional you can trust.

Our national registration search tool allows you to:

  • Check registration

  • See current status

  • Review history

  • Search disciplinary actions

  • Locate advisers by province

In less than a minute, you can check the status of a financial adviser or firm.

Types of investment scams:

New investment scams appear every day. However, most are a variation on one of these common scams.

  • Exempt securities scam

  • Forex scam

  • Offshore investment

  • Pension scam

  • The “pump and dump”

  • Ponzi scheme

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Exempt securities scam

Exempt securities, on their own, are not scams. They’re sold by companies that are allowed to sell the securities without filing a prospectus – a legal document that gives investors important information about an investment, including risk, fees and current financial statements.
The scam usually starts when you get an unsolicited pitch to invest in a promising business that is about to offer shares to the public. You may be told that this investment is available only to very wealthy people, but an exception can be made for you. All you have to do is sign some paperwork that usually involves lying about how much money you make.
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Forex scam

A legitimate-looking online or newspaper ad offers you an exciting opportunity to invest your money on the foreign exchange (forex) market. You may be told that the person investing your money has a great track record and can promise you a high return.
What usually happens is that your money is not invested in anything—the scam artist simply steals it.
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Offshore investment

In this type of scam, the fraudster will promise you a high return on an investment in an offshore market. They will often tell you the investment is a great way to avoid taxes.
What you may not know is that once your money is sent to another country and is under someone else’s control, you may not be able to get it back. The promised high return comes with a high risk that you’ll lose your entire investment.
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Pension scam

If someone tells you there is a way to take the money out of your locked-in retirement account without paying tax, it’s likely a scam. In most cases, you can’t take money out until you reach a certain age. There are also often limits to how much money you can take out each year and you will pay tax on the money you withdraw.
If you hear about a tax “loophole” that will let you access your funds early, talk to a qualified, independent tax expert before taking any action.
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The “pump and dump”

With this scam, you are offered an incredible deal on a low-priced stock. What you don’t know is that the person or company contacting you owns a large amount of this stock. As more and more investors buy shares, the value skyrockets. Once the price hits a peak, the scam artist sells their shares and the value of the stock plummets. You’re left holding worthless stocks.
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The Ponzi scheme

Ponzi (pyramid) schemes see investors recruited to put money into a security with the promise of high returns. Early investors often receive returns fairly quickly from supposed “interest.” Sensing an opportunity, they recruit friends and family as new investors.
But the investment doesn’t exist. The “interest” is paid using the contributions of new investors, not actual returns. The scheme collapses when the number of new investors drops and the absence of an underlying investment is revealed.

Warning signs

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most investment frauds share one of these common telltale warning signs. A better approach is to stick with the tried and true strategies that have long served smart investors well.

1. The person you’re dealing with isn’t registered.

People selling investments and giving investment advice in Canada must be registered unless they have a specific exemption. It takes only a few seconds on this site to see if your information source is registered and has a record free from enforcement actions that might make you think twice about trusting their advice.

1. Know who to call for help.

Securities regulators oversee Canada’s capital markets and strive to protect investors from unfair, improper and fraudulent practices while fostering a fair and efficient marketplace.
You can always contact your local securities regulator to check whether a person and the firm they work for are registered. You can also find out whether they have been the subject of any disciplinary actions.

2. You’re promised a high rate of return with a low-risk investment.

There is no such thing. Higher returns come with a higher risk of losing some or all of your investment. If you’re offered a “get rich quick” pitch, walk away.

2. Know what to expect from your investments.

An experienced, registered financial adviser can give you an honest overview of what to expect from an investment plan. Any promises that seem unreasonably ambitious or offer high returns with no risk are too good to be true.

3. You’re pressured to make a decision right away.

We all hate missing out, but you should never feel hurried into making an investment decision on the spot. If you hear things like “act fast,” “one-time opportunity” or “buy now before it’s too late” there’s a good chance the person you’re hearing it from has something to hide.

3. Know your investment goals – and stick to them!

If you have a financial plan, you’re more likely to choose investments that are right for you. Know how every investment fits into your plan, and never let high-pressure sales tactics force you into abandoning that plan.

4. You’re given confidential or “inside” information.

Think about it: With all the financial experts in the world clamoring for signs of an opportunity, how likely is it that only your contact has this valuable nugget of information? And if they truly do, remember that trades based on inside information – “insider trading” – are illegal in Canada.

4. Know who you’re dealing with.

A good adviser knows you, and you know them. Your adviser should know your financial situation, investment objectives, knowledge, experience and risk tolerance. And you should know their background, approach, track record and disciplinary history. If someone seems less than transparent – even if it could be to your benefit – ask yourself if they’re the right person to be responsible for your financial future.

5. You can’t easily verify the investment with a credible source.

If you receive an unsolicited investment opportunity, or an opportunity that sounds too good to be true, verify the details with your registered financial adviser, lawyer or accountant. If they can’t vouch for it, something’s not right.

5. Know what you’re investing in.

If there’s a genuine, bona fide investment behind all the smoke and mirrors… why all the smoke and mirrors? Before you buy any investment, read the prospectus and financial reports and look for other information in analysts’ reports, financial newspapers and websites. If you can’t find much information, be wary.

1. The person you’re dealing with isn’t registered.

People selling investments and giving investment advice in Canada must be registered unless they have a specific exemption. It takes only a few seconds on this site to see if your information source is registered and has a record free from enforcement actions that might make you think twice about trusting their advice.

1. Know who to call for help.

Securities regulators oversee Canada’s capital markets and strive to protect investors from unfair, improper and fraudulent practices while fostering a fair and efficient marketplace.
You can always contact your local securities regulator to check whether a person and the firm they work for are registered. You can also find out whether they have been the subject of any disciplinary actions.

2. You’re promised a high rate of return with a low-risk investment.

There is no such thing. Higher returns come with a higher risk of losing some or all of your investment. If you’re offered a “get rich quick” pitch, walk away.

2. Know what to expect from your investments.

An experienced, registered financial adviser can give you an honest overview of what to expect from an investment plan. Any promises that seem unreasonably ambitious or offer high returns with no risk are too good to be true.

3. You’re pressured to make a decision right away.

We all hate missing out, but you should never feel hurried into making an investment decision on the spot. If you hear things like “act fast,” “one-time opportunity” or “buy now before it’s too late” there’s a good chance the person you’re hearing it from has something to hide.

3. Know your investment goals – and stick to them!

If you have a financial plan, you’re more likely to choose investments that are right for you. Know how every investment fits into your plan, and never let high-pressure sales tactics force you into abandoning that plan.

4. You’re given confidential or “inside” information.

Think about it: With all the financial experts in the world clamoring for signs of an opportunity, how likely is it that only your contact has this valuable nugget of information? And if they truly do, remember that trades based on inside information – “insider trading” – are illegal in Canada.

4. Know who you’re dealing with.

A good adviser knows you, and you know them. Your adviser should know your financial situation, investment objectives, knowledge, experience and risk tolerance. And you should know their background, approach, track record and disciplinary history. If someone seems less than transparent – even if it could be to your benefit – ask yourself if they’re the right person to be responsible for your financial future.

5. You can’t easily verify the investment with a credible source.

If you receive an unsolicited investment opportunity, or an opportunity that sounds too good to be true, verify the details with your registered financial adviser, lawyer or accountant. If they can’t vouch for it, something’s not right.

5. Know what you’re investing in.

If there’s a genuine, bona fide investment behind all the smoke and mirrors… why all the smoke and mirrors? Before you buy any investment, read the prospectus and financial reports and look for other information in analysts’ reports, financial newspapers and websites. If you can’t find much information, be wary.

Check if your adviser is registered.

Find out if your adviser has ever been disciplined.

Check if your adviser is registered under these categories.

Determining the right adviser for you will depend on what products and services you need, on whether you can establish a good relationship with the adviser and on how much you’re willing to pay for advice. To choose an adviser with the right qualities for you, start by asking yourself these questions:
  • How much advice do you need? Are you looking for basic investment advice or do you need help with other complex financial matters, such as taxes and estate planning?
  • What is your investment knowledge and experience? If you’re an experienced investor, you may want an adviser who offers a wide range of products and lets you choose. If you’re newer to investing, you may be more comfortable with fewer choices and more guidance from your adviser.
  • How much are you planning to invest? Someone with less than $10,000 to invest will likely have simpler needs than someone who has $250,000 to invest. In addition, some advisers require you to have a minimum amount to invest.
An adviser is a partner you work with to develop an investment strategy and facilitate the buying and selling of securities that will help you reach your financial goals. As required, they can help you
  • Set your investment goals and build a comprehensive investment plan
  • Design a balanced portfolio that fits with your desired financial returns and risk tolerance
  • Choose suitable investments, execute specific trades or arrange for trades to be made on your behalf
  • Track your progress over time and help you rebalance your portfolio or modify your strategy as your needs change and your investments grow
Advisers may work at banks, mutual fund firms, brokerage firms and investment management firms. Not all advisers offer the same products and services or have the same expertise.
Advisers can be paid by salary, commission, flat fee or a combination of these methods. If an adviser is paid a salary, the cost of their advice is built into the products you buy. Many advisers are paid a commission for every product they sell. The companies they work for and the commissions they receive may influence an adviser to recommend one investment over another. Make sure you understand how your adviser is paid and think about how this may influence the advice they give you.
Start by asking for referrals from friends, family, colleagues and professionals you trust, such as your accountant or lawyer. But keep in mind that what’s good for one person may not be good for another.
You can also contact the following:
Start by screening candidates over the phone. Find out if they are taking on new clients and what type of clients they work with. Once you’ve narrowed your list, set up meetings with each candidate at their office. This will give you a sense of how they run their business. Gauge how comfortable you would be working with them. Do they listen to you and answer your questions clearly? Do you have a good rapport with them?
Expect the adviser to have some questions for you as well. They will probably want to know what financial goals you want to achieve and what kind of services you’re looking for.

What you should expect from your adviser

  • Helpful, informed advice as you build and carry out your investment plan
  • Fair, honest, clear and specific recommendations with explanations of the risks involved
  • They must get your permission before taking actions such as buying or selling investments for you (unless you give them discretionary authority)
  • Regular account statements and written confirmation of any transactions they make for you

What you should not expect from your adviser

  • The ability to predict the performance of the financial markets with certainty
  • Recommendations for investments that are always profitable
  • Action on vague or general instructions to buy or sell investments
  • The ability to meet unrealistic goals or expectations of profit

Your responsibilities as a client

Be clear and honest about your financial situation and expectations – this results in better advice.

Be prepared for each meeting.

Take time before each meeting to review your investments and what you want to discuss. Bring all relevant information, including account statements and tax forms.

Ask questions and take notes.

Make sure you understand the investments your adviser recommends and how they fit with your plan. Take notes of your conversations and what you agree to.

Be informed.

Read documents that you receive about investments you’re considering. Learn as much as you can about the investment world through courses, books, newspapers, websites and other media.

Stay on top of your investments.

Keep a file of all account-related documents, such as transaction confirmations, account statements and tax slips. Make sure they reflect what you discussed and contact your adviser if you have questions.

Keep your adviser up to date.

Tell your adviser when your personal or financial circumstances change. Major life changes such as marriage, the birth of a child, divorce or the death of your spouse can have a significant impact on your financial plan and the recommendations your adviser makes for you.

Get it in writing.

Your adviser should discuss the terms of the relationship with you up front, clearly outlining how they are paid and what services you will receive for that money. They are also required to disclose certain conflicts of interest. It’s always helpful to get this information in writing in case a dispute arises.

Know Where to Go for Help

Making a complaint

If you believe you may have lost money as a result of action or inaction by your adviser or firm – such as providing you with unsuitable investment advice or making unsuitable or unauthorized trades on your account – you may wish to make a complaint and attempt to get your money back.

Your first step is to contact the firm about your complaint. Be clear about what went wrong and when. State the outcome you expect (for example, an apology, getting your account corrected or getting your money back).

Once you have made your complaint to the firm, the firm has up to 90 calendar days to respond. You will receive the firm’s response in writing and it should explain how the firm dealt with your complaint and how you can further escalate your complaint if you are not satisfied with the response. From there, you may

  • Accept the firm’s response
  • Take your complaint to the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI), the independent dispute resolution service recognized by Canadian securities regulators, or to the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) in Quebec
  • Take legal action

The complaint process may involve a number of steps to get a result you’re satisfied with. To learn more about the complaint-handling process and the steps to follow, visit the CSA website.

Reporting fraud

If you believe an adviser or firm has violated securities laws, acted fraudulently or otherwise behaved improperly, you should report it to your local securities regulator. You may wish to report:

  • Unregistered people or businesses offering you investment products
  • A person or business that is defrauding investors or illegally selling investments
  • A person or business who offers you confidential information or “insider” tips

It is important that you report people or businesses that may have broken the law to the securities regulator in your province or territory. Securities regulators can investigate potential wrongdoing and impose sanctions on advisers and firms that violate securities laws.

Reporting wrongdoing enables regulators to take action. Visit the CSA website for information about making a report to your local securities regulator.

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If you have any questions about registration, adviser definitions, your investment adviser or firm, contact your provincial securities administrator.