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Buyer Beware: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

AARP Connecticut and the State Department of Banking’s Securities Division have joined forces to launch the Free Lunch Monitor program in Connecticut, part of a national campaign to monitor whether older investors are being pressured into purchasing investments that are not right for them. In today’s tough economy, the incidence of financial fraud and scams are on the rise, and older Americans remain a primary target. The Free Lunch Monitor Program 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.

According to an AARP survey, Protecting Older Investors: 2009 Free Lunch Seminar Report, nearly 6 million Americans age 55 and older have attended a free lunch or dinner in the past three years. Over a quarter of invitees (27 percent) have received ten or more invitations.

For attendees of these free seminars, the potential cost can be quite high. Of those who attended a seminar, more than three out of four (78 percent) expected that the free financial seminar would center on opportunities to learn more about financial issues.

However, once at the seminar, half of seminar attendees said the presenter asked them for personal information, such as their contact information or information about their finances and 46 percent reported that presenter attempted to make a follow-up appointment at their home. Nearly 40 percent reported that the presenter tried to sell them financial products either during or after the seminar.

If you receive an invitation to one of these free lunch seminars and plan to attend, AARP and the Connecticut Securities Division are asking that you bring a Free Lunch Monitor Checklist with you to help assure that both the products being promoted, as well as the promoters, conform to securities laws and regulations. Information from the returned checklists will be forwarded to individual state securities regulators for evaluation.

“A solid investment portfolio is the bedrock of a financially secure retirement,” said Brenda Kelley, State Director at AARP Connecticut. “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.”

According to Connecticut Banking Commissioner Howard F. Pitkin, “Having the eyes and ears of Free Lunch Monitors at these events and providing information to our Securities Division will be extremely helpful to all Connecticut investors.”

For more information about the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor Program and to download the monitor checklist, please visit aarp.org/nofreelunch.

To contact the Connecticut Department of Banking’s Securities Division, please call 860-240-8230 or Toll–free 1-800-831-7225.

Other Resources

A Free Lunch Invitation: Does it Say What it Means?

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