Guide for Seniors: Protect Yourself Against Investment Fraud (SEC)

 Senior citizens are the number one target of investment con artists. The files of state securities agencies are filled with tragic examples of senior citizens who have been cheated out of life savings, windfall insurance payments, and even the equity in their own homes.

Illegal telemarketing is a crime, and fraudulent telemarketers are criminals. There are an estimated 14,000 illegal telemarketing operations bilking thousands of victims every day. This fraud adds up to at least $40 billion annually, according to Congressional surveys. Additionally, surveys by the American Association of Retired Persons indicate that over one-half of those victims are age 50 or older.
Allan Wilson, South Carolina Attorney General

But there are ways senior citizens can protect themselves. Several government offices have published guidelines to help seniors protect themselves (and it’s not bad advice for those of any age). Reprinted below is the content from a booklet offered free of charge by the SEC and can be seen here. Other places to look are:

How To Avoid Fraud

Seniors are often the target of fraud. However, with some basic understanding of how scam artists work, you can avoid fraud and protect your hard-earned money. Learning how to invest safely can mean a huge difference in your retirement years.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to tactics of scam artists who are “nice” or attempt to develop a false bond of friendship. Scam artists prey on seniors who are polite to others and have difficulty saying “no” or feel indebted to someone who has provided unsolicited investment advice.

WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID BEING SCAMMED?

Ask questions and check out the answers.
Fraudsters rely on the fact that many people simply don’t bother to investigate before they invest. It’s not enough to ask a promoter for more information or for references—fraudsters have no incentive to set you straight. Savvy investors take the time to do their own independent research and talk to friends and family first before investing. Make sure you understand the investment, the risk attached, and the company’s history. And remember, if the product sounds too good to be true, it is!

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Thoughts on 403(b) Plans

Helpful Information For Our Teacher Members:

Investment Options and Important Advice About 403(b) Plans From the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As an employee of a public school, you likely have access to both a pension and a retirement savings plan called a “403(b)” plan.  Let’s examine what a 403(b) plan is, and then go through the choices you’ll likely need to make if you decide to invest in a 403(b) plan.

What Is a 403(b) Plan?

A 403(b) plan is a type of tax-deferred retirement savings program that is available to employees of public schools, employees of certain non-profit entities, and some members of the clergy.  Because you do not have to pay taxes on the amount you contribute to a 403(b) plan for the year in which you contributed to the plan, investing in a 403(b) plan can lower your overall tax burden — at least in the present.  You can defer the income tax on your contributions until you begin making withdrawals from your account — typically after you retire.  The earnings on your account also grow tax-free until withdrawal.

Investment Options

If you are eligible to participate in a 403(b) plan, you may have to choose among different types of investments, depending on how your employer structures the plan. It will be up to you to choose investments that will best meet your financial objectives. 403(b) plans typically offer fixed annuities, variable annuities, and mutual funds. Here is a brief description of each:

Continue for information on investment options, key questions to ask, and where to go for additional information:  Continue reading