Con artists are targeting the life savings of baby boomers and older seniors in a wave of investment scams. State securities regulators are reporting a surge of investment fraud against investors age 50 and older, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association, a voluntary association of state securities agencies responsible for grass-roots investor protection.
Seniors are the segment of the population that have managed to save and accrue the most investments. Crooks and hucksters follow the money and seniors have had a lifetime to accrue investments and funds. State securities regulators expect the surge in fraud targeting investors age 50 and older to continue. With more than 76 million baby boomers approaching retirement age, con artists have a large pool of potential targets. The oldest baby boomers turned 65 in 2011.
Unregistered securities in the form of promissory notes, private offerings or investment contracts are the most common product used in senior abuse cases. Senior abuse cases involving unregistered securities outnumber cases involving "traditional securities" by 5-to-1. Most of the fraud is conducted by people who don't have proper licensing and sell unregistered securities.
Other types of investment scams include affinity fraud, where con artists infiltrate a senior club or organization, create a bond with seniors and then pitch a fraudulent investment. Affinity fraud is a big issue that crops up quite a bit in church groups, senior centers, social networking and veterans associations. Con artists will befriend the leader of a group or organization and they may pay off a couple of "initial investors" within the group. These initial investors will often help to promote the scam to other friends in the group or organization.
Fraud at free-lunch or free-dinner seminars targeting seniors is on the rise, with state securities regulators reporting three times as many fraud cases involving these events in 2010, compared with 2009. Many free-lunch and free-dinner seminars are marketing tools used by legitimate investment professionals selling legitimate investments. But some of these events are outright investment scams run by con artists. The best way to guard against fraud is to check out the credentials of the person running the free-lunch or free-dinner seminar.
A telltale sign of an investment scam is a high-pressure sales pitch urging investors to act immediately. Don't be fooled. "You have to act today. It won't be here tomorrow." That's the close for almost every scam. A legitimate investment will be there tomorrow, next week and next month. Another sign of investment fraud is the promise of too-good-to-be true returns. Fraudulent pitches offer a promise of risk-free investments or low-risk, high-return investments. That should be warning sign.
Before investing, check to see if an investment professional is licensed in your state. Your state securities regulator can tell you whether an investment is registered and if a broker or a broker's firm has a disciplinary history. You also can check the disciplinary history of brokers and investment advisers by using online databases at SEC.gov and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, website. Check before you invest.
Those of you who receive Extra Help with your prescription drug plans may receive a letter from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in late August or early September. Each year a random sample of recipients are re-evaluated. It is critically important that you respond to this letter if requested. Failure to act could mean losing this benefit.
Thanks for help
Many thanks to all the volunteers who delivered Meals on Wheels last week. Are you interested in helping with Meals on Wheels? Substitute drivers are always needed. If you would like to help, call Patti at 272-3620 or 260-6282.
Thursday, the TOPS Club will meet at 9 a.m., followed by art class at 10 a.m. Gentle exercises start at 11 a.m. The Ambassador Singers practice at 1 p.m. Skip-Bo begins at 1 p.m. Also at 1 p.m. is a snooker tournament. Yoga begins at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, the day begins with line dancing at 8:30 a.m. A nurse from St. Catherine Hospital will be here from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bridge starts at 12:45 p.m. The Finney County Senior Citizens Association covered dish dinner begins at 6 p.m. All persons 55 and older in Finney County are invited. The entertainment will be the Steps Dance School. Bring a covered dish and join your friends and neighbors for an enjoyable evening of good food, good fellowship and good entertainment.
Saturday, the pool room is open from 1 to 4 p.m.
Monday begins our series "Lunch with the Doctor." Our guest this week is Dr. Layne Dameron, local podiatrist. He will be speaking on diabetic foot care. Come at 11:30 a.m. to visit with Dr. Dameron and stay for lunch. On the menu is smothered steak.
Tuesday has walking at 8:30 a.m. The computer class will not meet today but resumes again on Thursday. Gentle exercises are at 11 a.m. Pitch starts at 12:30 p.m. Bridge begins at 1:15 p.m. Tonight begins the weekly series "Back to School for Seniors." Tonight's speaker is Sarah Tighe, health and fitness director at the YMCA. Sarah will be speaking on Physicians Referral Exercise Prescription (PREP). Join us at 5:30 p.m. to learn more.
Sept. 11 has line dancing at 8:30 a.m. TOPS 1116 meets at 10 a.m. Pinochle starts at 12:40 p.m. The regular Wednesday night dance begins at 7:30 p.m. The recommended donation is $5.
Lunch is served at noon.
Thursday: Chef salad, strawberries and pears, bread stick. Friday: Beef and macaroni, marinated tomatoes, blueberry crisp, wheat roll.
Monday (lunch with Dr. Dameron): Smothered steak, scalloped potatoes, cauliflower and peas, cinnamon apple slices.
Tuesday: Roast turkey, potatoes and gravy, beets, fruit gelatin salad, wheat roll.
Sept. 11: Chicken pot pie, Capri vegetables, mandarin oranges, wheat roll.
Celebrating 35 years at the Senior Center of Finney County. Check out our website at www.seniorcenterfc.com.