A recent study commissioned by the AARP has revealed that the most common victims of investment fraud may not be the people we first imagine. When we think of investment fraud, we often picture a slick con man sweet-talking our grandmothers out of their dwindling financial resources. But, while senior citizens are the prime targets of scam artists, they aren't the most common victims.
According to recently released AARP Foundation National Fraud Victim Survey, the most common victim of investment fraud is a middle-aged, college-educated man making an annual income of at least $50,000.
Victims of investment fraud share a few other interesting characteristics, as well, including a higher-than-average exposure to sales situations and a higher-than-average interest in pitches promising large returns fast. They're also twice as likely as the general population to attend an investment sales presentation in exchange for a free meal or a free night's stay. (To learn why there's no such thing as a "free lunch," clickhere.)
Eagerness to increase their nest eggs in the decade before retirement may be one major reason middle-aged men fall for investment schemes that promise high-yield, low-risk products. Unfortunately, such investment opportunities simply don't exist.
To protect themselves from investment fraud, investors should be familiar with and watch out for the persuasive tactics most con artists use to lure in unsuspecting victims. These include the promise of guaranteed returns, "international connections," and high-yield, low risk products. Additional methods of protection include:
- Sleeping on it. If someone pressures you with a "must act now," high-pressure tactic, walk away.
- Asking questions. An evasive or vague answer should be a warning sign that something isn't right.
- Investigating. Don't take someone's word that they have a good reputation, are registered with your state securities regulator, or are pitching a registered product. Contact your states securities regulator yourself to verify registration status and background.
- Knowing the truth about "credentials." Some professional designations, such as the CRFA (the certified retirement financial adviser), may not be what they seem. For help figuring out which credentials are worth something and which are dubious at best, read this.