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Retiring? Watch for scams

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POSTED: March 17, 2007 5:12 a.m.
If you’re planning to retire soon, you have a lot to anticipate — more time with your family, the chance to travel, the freedom to pursue your hobbies, and so on. Yet, there’s one thing you’ll want to avoid during your retirement — investment scams.
Unfortunately, retirees are the number one target for investment con artists. Unscrupulous people do engage in abusive practices, and they seek out the elderly. However, you are far from defenseless. You can avoid being “scammed” by following these suggestions:
Ask for credentials, background and references. As amazing as it may seem, anyone can call himself or herself a “financial advisor” or similar term. Before working with anyone, ask for credentials, and find out how this person plans to work with you. You may want to ask these types of questions:
• “What securities licenses do you hold?”
• “How long has your company been in existence?”
• “How are you compensated?”
• “How frequently will you communicate with me?”
• “Which methods will you employ to determine if an investment is suitable for my risk tolerance and individual needs?”
• “Can you give me the names of some references?”
If you are dealing with a reputable financial professional, he or she will be happy to answer these and other questions. But if you notice someone acting nervously or evasively when you pose these inquiries, break off communication instantly; you simply cannot afford to trust someone who is less than 100 percent forthcoming with you.
Don’t be overly cooperative at first encounter. If a stranger calls and asks for personal or financial information, be suspicious. Con artists are good at winning their way into people’s confidence; furthermore, if you are a polite individual, you may feel it’s rude not to listen. This combination of their smooth talk and your good manners can be dangerous. You are under no obligation to listen to anyone on the phone; if you suspect you are talking to a predator, simply hang up or ask to be placed on a “do not call” list.
Never say yes to “you must act now” offers. If you receive an investment offer that “must” be acted upon immediately, walk away. Any offer that sounds too good to be true is. Legitimate investment opportunities will still be around tomorrow and next week.
Always stay in charge of your money. Never work with anyone who is eager to take “total control” of your money. True investment professionals will make recommendations based on your needs, communicate with you regularly and involve you in every step of the investment process.
Take action immediately if you have trouble retrieving principal. Unless you are investing in a fixed-term vehicle, such as a bond, you should be able to receive your funds or profits within a reasonable amount of time. If the broker you are working with “stalls” you when you say you want to pull out your principal or profits, report him or her to securities regulators, such as the National Association of Securities Dealers.
By taking these steps, you can help avoid being victimized by con artists. So, stay vigilant, seek out honest advice- and enjoy your retirement years.

Cardella is with Edward Jones in Hinesville.
 

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