The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy on Thursday issued an investor bulletin to warn retail investors about dubious professional awards, and similar marketing efforts, that may be used to confuse or deceive investors.

“While in some cases this type of information may help an investor make an informed decision in choosing a financial professional, in some cases it can be misleading — some professional awards, rankings, and designations provide little or no basis on which to judge the skill or abilities of the financial professional,” the bulletin says.

An award or designation may be misleading, it says, because it was paid for by the firm or the advisor, the criteria for receiving the award are minimal, or the advisor had to join an organization to receive the award.

There are various other ways that an award could be misleading, the bulletin notes, and investors should be “cautious about evaluating a financial professional based on any professional awards, rankings or designations they may have.”