The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has released a free “Consumer Guide to Financial Self-Defense” to help the public spot any red flags that could signal that they’re working with a crooked financial advisor.

The transactions described in the guide can stem from fraud perpetrated by a trusted associate, sloppy unprofessional work, lack of due diligence, or bad decisions recommended by an incompetent financial advisor.

The CFP Board was joined in the release of the guide by the National Football League Players Association, the U.S. General Services Administration, as well as a victim of financial fraud. The NFLPA will distribute the guide as part of its financial education service as well as promote it among players.

“Financial abuse can happen to anyone: the sophisticated investor, the high-profile NFL player with a financial windfall, the recent widow with a small pension, or the average person trying to save for retirement,” said Dana Hammonds, director of player services and development for the NFLPA.

Adela Pena, a victim of incompetent financial advice that wiped out much of the savings she had put aside for her retirement, will speak at the launch event. Her case is a perfect example of the importance of practicing the tips for financial self-defense recommended in the CFP Board’s consumer guide.

The 10 tips in the guide include:
1. Do Your Homework
2. Fill in All the Blanks
3. Beware of Rogue Advisors
4. Make Sure It All Adds Up
5. Don’t Give Away the Keys
6. Step Back
7. Look for the Downside
8. Don’t Let Yourself Be Pressured
9. Follow the Money
10. Ask, Ask and Ask Again

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, endorsed the guide. “I appreciate CFP Board being proactive on the issue of financial predators, for whom the elderly are a likely target,” he said in a statement. “This self-defense guide can help seniors tell the difference between legitimately trained and credentialed professionals who will offer unbiased financial advice, and bad actors who will take advantage of them and their savings.”

The GSA is including the guide as part of its Winter 2011 Consumer Information Catalog for distribution to the public starting in November. The guide has been endorsed by the Federal Citizen Information Center, an office of the GSA.

The CFP Board is also making the guide available to members of Congress, state legislators, governors, attorneys general and local elected officials, with the CFP Board providing a free electronic copy and at-cost printing for mass quantities.

An online version of the guide is available at, or a printed copy can be requested by sending an e-mail to or by calling 1-(800) 487-1497.

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