Older Americans Increasingly Targeted By Financial Scammers

WASHINGTON (October 14, 2008) – With fraud and scams on the rise, older Americans remain a primary target for unscrupulous individuals. In collaboration with the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), AARP today announces the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor program, which gives individuals an opportunity to fight back against unscrupulous promoters by reporting possibilities of questionable investment practices in their communities to state securities authorities for investigation.

Four out of five investors age 60 and over received at least one invitation to a free investment seminar in the past three years—and three out of five received six or more. The invitations often promise to educate individuals about investing strategies or managing money in retirement usually with an expensive meal provided at no cost.

Together, AARP and NASAA are working on a national campaign designed to monitor whether investors are being pressured into purchasing inappropriate or unsuitable investments. Should an individual choose to attend a free lunch seminar, they can bring a checklist with them to help assure that both the products promoted at free investment seminars, as well as the promoters, conform to securities laws and regulations. Information from the checklists will be forwarded to individual state securities regulators for evaluation.

“A solid investment portfolio is the bedrock of a financially secure retirement,” said Jean Setzfand, Director of Financial Security Outreach at AARP. “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.”

A recent year-long examination of free lunch seminars conducted by state securities regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found that while many free meal financial seminars were advertised as “educational,” or “workshops,” 100 percent of the “seminars” were instead sales presentations; 50 percent featured exaggerated or misleading advertising claims; and one-quarter involved possibly unsuitable recommendations to attendees.

“Instead of unbiased financial education and a meal, many free-meal seminar attendees are being fed a hard sales pitch for investment products that are often unsuitable,” said Fred Joseph, NASAA President and Colorado Securities Commissioner. “State securities regulators appreciate the opportunity to work closely with AARP and its membership to put unscrupulous salespeople on notice that the victimization of senior investors will not be tolerated.”

For more information about the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor and to download the monitor checklist, please visit www.aarp.org/nofreelunch. For information about investor protection and to learn how to contact your state securities regulator, click here.

About AARP
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 33 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s 39 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) is the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection. NASAA is a voluntary association whose membership consists of 67 state, provincial, and territorial securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico.

For More Information:

AARP: Alejandra Owens, (202) 434-2560

NASAA: Bob Webster, (202) 737-0900