Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
The consumer public can be very gullible. Long Island brokerage firm David Lerner Associates — exceptionally well known in the New York metro area for saturating the radio airwaves with advertising spots for its services — was just charged with ripping off consumers by charging excessive fees.
Consumers Fell for David “Poppy” Lerner — Coming Across as a Wise and Trustworthy Father Figure
I remember hearing ads for Lerner’s financial services business on the radio for almost 20 years. His ubiquitous spots seem to run nonstop night and day.
In the past decade, Lerner came up with a family-friendly advertising campaign in which he calls himself “Poppy”, referring to the grandfatherly nickname his grandkids call him.
His radio spots created the impression that he was a fatherly figure, out to protect the retired consumer by selling them safe investments.
He also featured numerous spots from alleged customers providing testimonials, praising and thanking him. New Yorkers have heard, “Take a tip from Poppy” a million times.
As it turned out, he generated so much trust that well over a thousand consumers, who I suspect are mostly senior citizens investing their retirement savings, were lulled into, what appears to be, a false sense of security, believing Lerner would treat them well and charge them reasonable fees.
However, Lerner totally ripped off these consumers by unreasonably jacking up the prices that his Long Island financial services business charged, according to the FINRA complaint.
FINRA is now seeking to obtain full restitution for the consumers and a stiff fine against David Lerner Associates and his top-level broker, William Mason.
Incidentally, this is not the first time Lerner has been in trouble. He paid a hefty fine to NASD several years ago.
Many Consumers in Financial Difficulty are Just as Susceptible to Those Taken Advantage of by Lerner
Just last night I met with a very nice couple that consulted me for a bankruptcy filing. They, too, were taken advantage of by smooth-talking radio spokesmen.
They fell for an out-of-state debt settlement program that ripped them off for thousands of dollars while promising them the moon. The couple came to me after just being served with a collection law suit.
Every day I hear convincing radio spots and see slickly-produced television commercials touting debt settlement services. Many of these companies pour big bucks into the commercial production and use quality actors. The commercials boast (unrealistic) promises of curing debt problems.
Many of these spots claim that the debt settlement company is part of some federal debt settlement program, when there is no such thing. Yet, an incredible number of consumers are falling for this.
The bottom line is that consumers need to be much more vigilant. Just because a radio or TV spokesperson appears trustworthy, does not mean that they are.