Hardly a day goes by without hearing horrible stories of a person having their identity stolen and their finances ruined as a result. The SEC is now stepping into this hornet’s nest by adopting new rules for financial advisors who have the authority to move client funds to third parties.
The new rules require firms to set up red flag files to track their movement of money and to watch out for identity theft. Advisory firms must specify the red flags that they use, and how they propose to respond when such red flags are found.
If firms do not move client funds to third parties, they will still be required to periodically review whether this status has changed, which would require implementation of the red flags. The SEC noted some basic things that advisors can look for when it comes to possible identity theft.
Such red flag conduct includes, among others, instructions coming from a client with a new email address; a client saying he has changed an address; a client who wants to invests in a place where he has never invested before; or a client who has requested many credit reports.
The easiest response by any firm is to call the client to confirm the instructions. Do not hide behind an email because the email may be bogus. If the situation is extreme, you may need to contact law enforcement.
Putting aside the new SEC rules, it is a worthy venture for all firms to look into their policies and procedures when handling client funds to avoid the tragedy that could result from identity theft. Develop protocols to look for and react to possible identity theft. Your clients will expect you to do so.
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