(NEWS CENTER) -- The National Center on Elder Abuse said investments frauds targeting seniors are on the rise and can be emotional and financially devastating. With new scams almost every week, it can be difficult to keep track of what is real and what is fake, especially in the digital age. Sarah Halpin, a certified financial planner for the Danforth Group, said following a few guidelines can help keep seniors finances secure.
Scam artists and unscrupulous sales people target seniors because they are often trusting, home alone during the day, reluctant to report fraud and confused by ads and offers. People who call during the day or offer a slick ad or deal should be treated with healthy skepticism.
Proceed with Caution
Halpin said to never jump into an investment. Slick websites, smooth-talking solicitors, high pressure sales pitches, and extravagant promises can be misleading and full of pressure. Before investing in any product or service, it is necessary to consider the overall financial situation. Be aware of the liquidity needs, fees, and costs associated with an investment. Halpin said it is important to consider income needs and the overall risk one can afford.
Beware of Misleading Information
There is some wisdom to the old adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Halpin. Beware of any guarantees that seem like a good deal; scammers use unrealistic promises to lure people in. Watch for catch-phrases like "limited-time offer" or "one of a kind deal." If the solicitor says to keep the investment secret or name drops other people who have bought into the investment, this should raise a red flag. As with any investment, ask questions and seek another opinion.
Skepticism Is Healthy
Healthy skepticism is a wise strategy for seniors. Investment fraud can take many forms so it can be difficult to differentiate. There are Ponzi schemes, for example, where fraudsters advertise high rates of return on client investments.
Other common schemes to watch out for:
· scams involving coins and precious metals
· ownership interests in oil and gas interests
· viatical scams (known as "cashing out" of a life insurance policy, or a "living benefit")
· affinity fraud through community groups, clubs, and even places of worship
What to Do
It is best to practice saying no before a scammer approaches. When a con artist does approach, it is best to end the conversation. If needed, ask for a second opinion to help evaluate the offer. Contact the Maine Office of Securities by phone at 1-877-624-8551 and /or check out the resources at www.investors.maine.gov.
Othere resources include:
The SEC has prepared "Seniors: Protect Yourself Against Investment Fraud"
The Better Business Bureau and the FINRA Foundation created a website and pamphlet for seniors and their families to find out more. Visit for more tips, and download "Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips For Investors."