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With fraud and scams on the rise, older Americans remain a primary target for unscrupulous individuals. AARP in Arizona and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is promoting a “Free Lunch Seminar Monitor” program, which gives individuals an opportunity to fight back against unscrupulous promoters by reporting possibilities of investment fraud in their communities to state securities authorities for investigation.
Four out of five investors age 60 and over received at least one invitation to a free investment seminar in the past three years—and three out of five received six or more. The invitations often promise to educate individuals about investing strategies or managing money in retirement usually with an expensive meal provided at no cost.
Together, AARP Arizona and the Arizona Attorney General are working on a campaign designed to monitor whether investors are being pressured into purchasing inappropriate or unsuitable investments.
Should an individual choose to attend a free lunch seminar, they can bring a checklist with them to help assure that both the products promoted at free investment seminars, as well as the promoters, conform to securities laws and regulations. Information from the checklists will be forwarded to individual state securities regulators for evaluation.
“A solid investment portfolio is the bedrock of a financially secure retirement,” said David Mitchell State Director at AARP in Arizona. “By empowering individuals with knowledge and information, we aim to create an educated and financially savvy investor who can spot a scam when they are being targeted. We also hope the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor program will deter scammers and give state securities regulators an opportunity to investigate them.”
A recent year-long examination of free lunch seminars conducted by state securities regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found that while many free meal financial seminars were advertised as “educational,” or “workshops,” 100 percent of the “seminars” were instead sales presentations; 50 percent featured exaggerated or misleading advertising claims; and one-quarter involved possibly unsuitable recommendations to attendees.
"I am aggressively prosecuting those who abuse or defraud seniors. However, law enforcement alone is not enough," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. "I appreciate the partnership of AARP in both the 'Free Lunch Monitor' and 'Senior Sleuth' programs that give seniors the tools to protect themselves from these frauds before they become victims."
Find more information about the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor and download the monitor checklist.
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