Tips from state securities regulators for older investors to help protect themselves against investment fraud:
Check out strangers touting strange deals. Trusting strangers is a mistake everyone makes when it comes to their personal finances. Extensive background information on investment salespeople and firms is available from the Central Registration Depository (CRD) files that can be provided by your state securities agency.
Always stay in charge of your money. Beware of anyone who suggests putting your money into something you don't understand or who urges that you leave everything in his or her hands.
Don't judge a book by its cover. Successful con artists can sound and look extremely professional and have the ability to make even the flimsiest investment deal sound as safe as putting money in the bank.
Be wary of salespeople who prey on your fears. Con artists know that you worry about outliving your savings. Fear can cloud your good judgment. An investment that is right for you will make sense because you understand it and feel comfortable with the risk involved.
Don't worsen a tragedy with rash financial decisions. The death or hospitalization of a spouse or other loved one has many sad consequences — financial fraud shouldn't be one of them. If you find yourself suddenly in charge of your own finances, get the facts before you make any decisions.
Monitor your investments and ask tough questions. Don't compound the mistake of trusting an unscrupulous investment professional or outright con artist by failing to keep an eye on the progress of your investment. Insist on regular written and oral reports. Look for signs of excessive or unauthorized trading of your funds.
Don't let embarrassment or fear keep you from reporting investment fraud or abuse. Con artists know that you might hesitate, out of embarrassment or fear, to report that you have been victimized in a financial scheme. Con artists prey on your sensitivities and count on these fears preventing or delaying the point at which authorities are notified of a scam.