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Floridians Hit “Free Lunch” Scams Hardest

Florida has long been a target of scam artists and financial fraudsters.  Now Floridians may have started fighting back, based on new results from AARP’s “No Free Lunch” anti-fraud monitoring program. 

Floridians filed more reports with AARP than any other state, according to totals released this month by AARP.

The program calls on volunteers to attend free-lunch seminars sponsored by financial consultants.  Equipped with information from AARP that helps them spot the markets of fraud, volunteers submit information about what they hear in the free-lunch seminars.  AARP forwards the reports to government regulators.

Although some may be legitimate and educational, in a 2007 examination of free lunch seminars, the Securities and Exchange Commission found half of the seminars made claims that were exaggerated or misleading and as much as 13 percent appeared to be scams.

According to AARP, Floridians sent as many as 50 checklists about the financial seminars to the Association’s national headquarters.

These seminars aim to recruit older Americans and sell them investment products because they have significant assets. At the rate respondents are attending seminars – some 5.9 million individuals 55 and over attended seminars in 2009 alone, according to the AARP report – informing these individuals becomes a key issue.

“We just want our members to be aware of what is really being sold at these seminars,” said AARP State President Doug Heinlen. “There’s really nothing free about these lunches, especially if you should later find you’re one of the victims who’s been scammed out of your life savings.”

Concerns are growing over the legitimacy of the free-lunch programs. In the same report, 78 percent of Americans 55 and older said they are concerned or  somewhat concerned about financial scams affecting them or someone they know.

Find out more about how to fight these scams online.

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