Senior financial protection bill passes key Assembly committee

SACRAMENTO The Assembly Banking and Finance Committee voted Monday to outlaw a shady sales gimmick often used by so-called financial experts to pump up their credibility when selling dubious investments to elderly people.

The bill, AB 2149 by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, would make it illegal for salespeople to claim to be “Certified Senior Advisors” or similar experts unless they have completed a certain amount of state-recognized education.

“The goal is to stop this trend in which cheaters use these inflated and bogus titles to cheat old people,” said Berg, D-Eureka. “They put these lofty sounding titles on their cards whether they have any real expertise or not.”

AB 2149 would regulate the use of words or phrases that suggest expertise in the finances of the elderly. The Department of Corporations will be responsible for recognizing accredited organizations and creating the standards for the use of “Certified Senior Advisor.” They will also compile a list of people with those credentials.

“Con artists often prey upon older adults by instilling a false sense of trust and security by flaunting bogus credentials,” said Berg, D-Eureka. “While we can't turn a cheater into an honest person, we can make sure that those titles actually mean something.”

Elder financial abuse is one of the fastest growing segments of crime. Nearly a quarter million older Californians fall prey to some sort of swindle or abuse each year.

A recent New York Times investigation found that the number of “certified” senior experts in the sales force has increased 78 percent in the last five years. Some of these agents are, of course, legitimate experts, but many either obtain their “credentials” through dubious means, or simply invent a title themselves.

“This bill simply says that you can’t just give yourself a fancy title to make someone trust you,” said Berg. “If you want to use a title, you have to earn it.”

The bill is part of a two-bill package that regulates the use of invented titles not recognized by the State of California.

AB 2149 now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Visit Berg's Web site at