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Five Tips to Help You Avoid Investment Fraud

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. >>

How to Become a Free Lunch Monitor

If you have already decided to attend a free lunch seminar, consider bringing the "What to Listen For Checklist." The checklist will help you ask the right questions and capture key information.

The checklists will also be shared with state regulators to assist them in their fraud prevention work.

As a Free Lunch Monitor, you can help make the financial marketplace safer for all investors!

Free Lunch Monitor Instructions

1.   Print and take the Checklist to the investment seminar*
2.   Do not wear anything that says "AARP" or announce that you're a free lunch monitor
3.   During or after the seminar, fill in your observations on the checklist
4.   Send your completed checklist along with the invitation to AARP
5.   We strongly discourage inviting individuals into your home that you do not know!

Send Your Completed Checklists and Invitations

If you're not attending a seminar, you can still help by sending us your invitations. All completed checklists and invitations should be sent to:

AARP Free Lunch Monitor Program
PO Box 93028
Long Beach, CA 90809

Or scan and email to

Knowing what occurs at these seminars and how they're marketed helps AARP and regulators better determine if investment professionals are truly working in the best interest of each investor.

* Do not use a recording device during the session; they are not allowed in certain states.

Also of interest: Questions to ask any financial professional. >>