McCollum, Beach: “Free Lunches” Could Cost Florida Seniors Their Savings
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum and Department of Elder Affairs Secretary E. Douglas Beach issued a consumer advisory urging senior citizens and their loved ones to think twice before taking advantage of so-called financial planning seminars or estate preservation workshops that use a “free lunch” to lure seniors to attend. The Attorney General’s Office has received more than a dozen complaints from seniors enticed to attend a free meal that actually turned out to be a high-pressure sales pitch for investments that may be entirely inappropriate for the individual based on his or her age and financial circumstance.
“The last thing our seniors need during this economic climate when their retirement savings may be dwindling is an investment scam that further depletes that nest egg,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Too many of our seniors are finding that these free meals can cost them dearly.”
The invitations to the free meal often arrive via phone or mail and promise tips on earning great financial return with minimal risk, eliminating taxes or avoiding probate. After a high-pressure presentation, salespeople then try to schedule follow-up visits in the homes of those who attend so they can continue the pitch. In addition to losing money, consumers who complained to the Attorney General’s Office reported being badgered by multiple unsolicited phone calls and frustrated by misrepresentation of the seminar’s purpose.
“Florida’s seniors spent their lives hearing there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and now some unscrupulous hucksters are trying to make them think otherwise,” said Secretary Beach. “The safest approach for older residents is to stick with tried-and-true methods of retirement planning so they can avoid becoming the next victims of these high-pressure tactics.”
AARP and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recommend that seniors do not purchase anything or open an account of any kind at a free-meal seminar. Seniors should also consider asking the following questions:
If the speaker can't or won't answer questions to a consumer’s satisfaction, the investment is probably not the best choice. AARP provides a checklist on its website to take with you if you decide to attend such a seminar. The checklist can be downloaded at http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/money/listen_checklist.pdf
The bottom line: Consider carefully where and how you will invest your hard-earned savings. AARP says that while a free meal or prize might be enticing, there are unbiased, noncommercial places to go for information about investing, including regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA and state securities regulators as well as the AARP website.
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