State officials have been talking here about preventing abuse of financial services industry credentials.

“More has to be done to protect seniors,” Karen Tyler, a North Dakota securities commissioner and president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, Washington, said here at the spring meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y.

Today, Tyler argued, too many producers use questionable credentials in connection with “educational free lunch seminars” that are almost always designed to sell financial services products.

Another problem is that requirements for designations can vary greatly, Tyler said.

“The proliferation of titles adds to the confusion,” according to Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, Rochester, N.Y. But advisors can get around new designation rules by simply saying they have years of experience, without actually advertising a designation, Morelle said.

Susan Voss, Iowa insurance commission and NAIC secretary-treasurer, said that her state put out a bulletin on the issue and that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., is considering how it should respond to reports of senior designation problems.

Iowa officials note in the their bulletin, which was released in September 2007, that insurance companies are responsible for advertising of their products whether the advertising is prepared by the company or by the producer.

Any producer designation used is part of the advertising, and advertising responsibility protections should apply to consumers of all ages, Voss said.

Gary Sanders, senior counsel for law and government relations with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va., said his organization “strongly condemns all deception of consumers and sales practices.

But Sanders also warned against “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”