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Knowledge Is Protection

Five Tips to Help You Avoid Investment Fraud

free lunch monitor page investment fraud men and money

— Photo by Roy McMahon/Corbis

En español | Have you ever been given a "great offer" or a "hot tip" on an investment? Such investments, while tempting, can be risky. Following these five tips can help you keep your money safe from scammers and aggressive sales people.

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1.    Check for warning signs.
Think twice if you hear anything like:

•    "Your profit is guaranteed."
•    "It's an amazingly high rate of return."
•    "There's no risk."
•    "You can get in on the ground floor."
•    "This offer is only available today."
•    "It's a secret investment tip just for you."
•    "I'll get you the paperwork later."
•    "Just make your check out to me."

2.    Check all investment products.
Most investments are some form of security that must be registered with your state securities regulator or with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Find out how to contact your regulator on the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) website at If it's not registered, don't invest!

3.    Check the fit.
Even if the product is registered, you need to carefully consider if it is right for you. Are you comfortable with the level of risk, your ability to access your funds and length of time before you will see a return? Are there high withdrawal penalties?

4.    Check the person.
Is the person properly licensed in your state or with the SEC to sell this product? If not, beware. To check on an investment offer or sales person, check these sites:

And to file a complaint, contact your state regulator. You can find your state securities regulator by visiting

5.    Help protect others — become a Free Lunch Monitor
"Free lunch" seminars are often used to lure people into investing in unsuitable or even fraudulent products. AARP developed the Free Lunch Monitor Program to help older Americans avoid being scammed out of their investments. Protect yourself and help others — become an AARP Free Lunch Monitor.

AARP is working with the NASAA on the Free Lunch Monitor Program to ensure that investors are not being pressured into purchasing fraudulent or unsuitable investments. We could use your help!

Next: Instructions for Free Lunch Monitors. >>

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