The economic climate is ripe for investment scams. Such scams hit consumers of all ages, but seniors are particularly susceptible. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) reports that older investors are being targeted with increasingly complex investment scams involving unregistered securities, promissory notes, charitable gift annuities, viatical settlements and Ponzi schemes, all promising inflated returns.
Opportunists who commit these scams know that seniors and others living on fixed incomes are being squeezed in the current financial environment. Their products and pitches sound tempting to many seniors who have seen their retirement nest egg dwindle in the past few years.
Seniors, however can educate themselves to avoid being taken. The Better Business Bureau, along with the NASAA offer the following tips:
- Do not be a courtesy victim. Con artists will not hesitate to exploit your good manners.
- Check out strangers touting too good to be true deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake anyone can make when it comes to their personal finances. Extensive background information on investment salespeople and firms is available from the Central Registration Depository files available from your state securities agency.
- Always stay in charge of your money. Beware of anyone who suggests putting your money into something you do not understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
- Do not judge a book by its cover. Successful con artists sound and look extremely professional and have the ability to make even the flimsiest investment deal sound as safe and sound as putting money in the bank. The sound of a voice, particularly on the phone, has no bearing on the soundness of an investment opportunity.
- Watch out for salespeople who prey on your fears. Con artists know that you worry about outliving your savings. Fear can cloud your good judgment. An investment that is right for you will make sense because you understand it and feel comfortable with the risk involved.
- Monitor your investments and ask questions. Do not compound the mistake of trusting an unscrupulous investment professional or a con artists by failing to keep an eye on the progress of your investment. Insist on regular written or oral reports. Look for signs of excessive or unauthorized trading of your funds. If you are stalled when you want to withdraw your principal or profits from an investment, consider that a red flag.
- Do not let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting investment fraud or abuse. Con artists know that you might hesitate to report that you have been victimized in financial schemes out of embarrassment or fear. Every day that you delay reporting fraud is one more day that the con artist is spending your money and finding new victims.
For more information on seniors and investment fraud, visit the NASAA's web site at http://www.nasaa.org/Issues___Answers/Legislative_Activity/Testimony/4503.cfm, or contact the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).