SHARE

Check Out the Seller

If a salesperson is trying to sell you an investment, check them out by following these steps.

Step 1: Ask "Are you licensed to sell me this investment?"

Legitimate investment professionals—including brokers, investment advisers and insurance agents—must be licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or your state securities or insurance regulator before they can sell you anything. If they say they aren't licensed, say good bye—and don't buy.

Step 2: Check.

If they say they are licensed, check them out as follows:

If They Say They Are a ... Look Here Helpful Hints
Broker
  • If you find them on BrokerCheck, click their name and click this button in the upper right side of the screen:
    BrokerCheck: Get Detailed Report button
    This will give you information on the broker's employment history, qualifications, disclosure events and more.
  • To interpret what you find, see FINRA BrokerCheck Tips below.
  • Use both FINRA BrokerCheck and contact your state. There's helpful information in both places.
Investment Adviser
  • If you find the firm or individual on BrokerCheck, click the name and click this button in the upper right side of the screen:
    BrokerCheck: Get Detailed Report button
    This will give you information on the investment adviser’s employment history, qualifications, disclosure events and more.
  • To interpret what you find, see FINRA BrokerCheck Tips below.
  • If you find the firm on IAPD, click on its name to view its Form ADV (the investment adviser registration form).
  • For disciplinary information about the firm, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click "Item 11Disclosure."
  • If you find the individual on IAPD, click their name and click this button in the upper right side of the screen:

    This will give you information on the individual’s employment history, qualifications, disclosure events and more.
Insurance Agent
  • Requirements and information available vary by state.
  • Be aware that "captive" agents can sell only the policies and products their company offers. Independent insurance agents typically represent multiple companies.

FINRA BrokerCheck Tips

Here are some helpful tips when checking out a salesperson using FINRA BrokerCheck:

How to search BrokerCheck: You may search for a person by name, CRD/SEC Number, employing firm or zip code.

If your Search returns too many results: You can narrow the search results you get by adding one or more of the search criteria noted above.

If you don't find the person in FINRA BrokerCheck (your search comes back as “No Search Results”), it can mean:

  • The person’s name is misspelled. You can refine your search by entering only part of the person’s name.
  • The individual is not included in BrokerCheck or the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database because he or she:
    • is not currently registered with FINRA or a state securities regulator, or has not been so registered within the last 10 years; or
    • has not been registered with FINRA or a state securities regulator within the last 10 years and either:
      • is not the subject of a final regulatory action;
      • has not been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to certain crimes;
      • has not been subject to a civil injunction involving investment-related activity or been found in a civil court to have been involved in a violation of investment-related statutes or regulations; or
      • has not been named as a respondent or defendant in an arbitration or civil litigation in which he or she was alleged to have committed a sales practice violation, and which resulted in an award or civil judgment against the individual.
  • The investment adviser firm is not within scope for the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database because the firm is not currently registered with the SEC and/or a state securities regulator or been so registered within the last 10 years.

If you are still not able to find the person you’re searching for, please call the FINRA BrokerCheck Hotline at (800) 289-9999 and speak with a representative.

Additional Resources

FINRA BrokerCheck
Check the background, registration or licensing and disciplinary history of brokerage firms and individual brokers, as well as investment adviser firms and representatives.

Investment Adviser Public Disclosure
Check the registration status and disciplinary history of investment adviser firms, their key personnel and investment adviser representatives.

State Securities Regulators
Your state securities regulator can also help you check out brokers and investment advisers doing business in your state. 

State Insurance Regulators
Contact your state insurance department for information on company and agent licensing requirements.

National Futures Association's BASIC
Get important background information about firms and individuals selling futures from the NFA's Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC).

Understanding Professional Designations
Use this tool to decode the acronyms that so often appear on business cards and better understand what a given designation means.

Cutting Through the Confusion
Learn more about the differences between brokers, investment advisers and financial planners.