The Professional Bridge

Jenna Dakroub photoBy:  Jenna Dakroub, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Student Intern

When people need legal advice, they call their lawyers. When people need medical advice, they call their doctors. While all of the HeLP clinic’s clients have sick children, many are referred specifically for Social Security denials or Social Security terminating their existing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The issues raised in a typical SSI case overlap between both the medical and legal professions. When the two professions join together, the client gets more effective assistance. Continue reading

Wednesday’s Word: Boiler Room

By Ben Dell’Orto, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

In addition to inspiring a Hollywood movie, Boiler Rooms are a common scheme to pressure investors into purchasing an investment that most likely is not a good one for them. The scheme involves a large group of “salesmen” trying to attract as many investors as possible to the scam. The most common method is through cold calling, where the schemers use high-pressure sales tactics to encourage the potential investor on the other end of the phone call to take advantage of an investment that will yield “high returns” and “no risk” but is only available for a short time. FINRA notes that the caller will often attempt to explain the miracle investment by suggesting that it is founded in an emerging industry or will “play off recent events” to lend legitimacy to the lie. One recently-busted scam in England took advantage of the rising wine industry, and this blog reported on a recent FINRA report of scams increasing on this side of the pond.

While previously usually conducted over the phone, the SEC adds that boiler rooms now may use “emails, text messages, social media, and other means.” These methods lack the pressure created by a persuasive voice speaking directly over the phone, but can still be effective by suggesting that the time to buy is limited, or by pestering with frequent messages.

The most important thing to remember to avoid falling victim to a Boiler Room scheme is to

Take.

Your.

Time.

The fraudsters behind this kind of scheme are relying on a quick decision, so taking a moment to run a broker check and an internet search of the investment before buying will save you from taking a big loss.

FMLA Overview

Jenna Dakroub photoBy: Jenna Dakroub, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Student Intern

 

One of the biggest struggles for the families who seek legal assistance from the HeLP clinic is managing their work while also tending to their sick children. Our clients sometimes find it difficult to retain a job because they often have to leave work early or take days off due to a medical emergency. Additionally, these emergencies are not predictable, so they are not always able to give their employer advance notice. Continue reading

Dangerous Clickbait: The SEC Warns Investors About Paid-to-Click Scams

By: Esmat Hanano, IAC Student Intern Spring 2018

At the tail-end of last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a warning to investors about Paid-To-Click (PTC) scams. PTC websites “…promise investors a share of the program’s profits in exchange for paying an upfront fee or buying products.” The PTC site might even promise the investor advertising space on its network of ads in addition to a share in the program’s profits. In this way PTC sites seem to offer the best way of making money on the internet—buy online “ad packs” then sit back and watch as your profits roll in! However, the SEC warns that these websites are being used to further Ponzi schemes. In fraudulent schemes, a new investor will place money in a PTC program which will then be sent to previous investors in the same program as their “profits.” Not all PTC sites are malicious, but investors thinking about buying into such programs must be wary of the promises these websites make. Continue reading

Investor Alert: Promissory Notes Don’t Offer Much Promise

Ben Dell’Orto, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

When the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) polled state securities regulators on the “top five current investment practices, products or schemes” leading to a customer complaint or investigation, the results were overwhelming: 74% of those surveyed listed promissory notes among the top five.

So what is a promissory note? On the surface, the concept is simple; companies in need of capital reach out to investors to lend them some money with the promise of eventually returning the initial investment along with fixed interest payments. The length of time the company has to repay can vary from months to years.

Though this sounds like a simple process with potential for high returns, most of us are unlikely to get an offer to purchase legitimate promissory notes. The NASAA notes that “legitimate promissory notes are marketed and sold almost exclusively to sophisticated or corporate investors with the resources to research the companies issuing the notes and to determine whether the issuers have the capacity to pay the promised interest and principal.” This means that most offers the average investor receives for promissory notes are actually fraudulent.

While FINRA notes that fraudsters offering promissory notes most frequently target elderly investors with fixed income for their retirement savings, anyone is at risk. This brochure, produced by FINRA, the NASAA and others describes instances where a coffee company sold $4 million in notes to at least 100 investors and a veterinarian in Kansas sold $1.3 million in notes to friends and church members. In both situations, the investors lost everything. Last April, an insurance agent plead guilty to defrauding almost eighty of his clients out of $8.2 million by promising a 10 percent return to borrow against their life insurance plan.

The key to avoiding fraudulent promissory notes is the same as avoiding most scams: research. Use the SEC’s EDGAR search tool to make sure your promissory note is properly registered. Also avoid any notes which claim to be “guaranteed,” as nothing is.

The Importance of Active Listening

Michelle Wilco photo

By: Michelle Wilco, Spring 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Student Intern

In the digital age, it can be difficult to fully focus on one task or one person for an extended period of time. Because of this, no matter how much you prepare for a client meeting, you will miss information if you do not engage in active listening. Active listening is a technique that requires you to fully concentrate on the person with whom you are communicating, absorb and focus on what the other person is saying, and then respond accordingly. Active listening is a skill that requires practice, but it is an important habit that can help you communicate better in your personal and professional interactions.
Continue reading

Wednesday’s Word: Unit Investment Trust

By Esmat Hanano, Spring 2018 IAC Student Intern

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has released its annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter. One of the biggest priorities for FINRA in 2018 is monitoring the use of Unit Investment Trusts, or UITs. What exactly is a UIT you may ask? Continue reading