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DISB Marks Older Americans Month by Encouraging Participation in Free Lunch Monitor Program

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
With a lifetime’s worth of savings, older Americans are a primary target for financial fraud and abuse.

(Washington, DC) — In recognition of National Older Americans Month (May 1-31), the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) reminds District of Columbia’s seniors that they can help ensure a better tomorrow by taking steps to protect their financial nest eggs today.

With a lifetime’s worth of savings, seniors are a primary target for financial fraud and abuse, according to DISB Commissioner Thomas E. Hampton. One of the ways unscrupulous sales teams find new targets is through so-called “free lunch” seminars, where investors are introduced to inappropriate or unsuitable investments in exchange for an expensive meal provided at no cost.

Four out of five investors age 60 and over received at least one invitation to a free investment seminar in the past three years—and three out of five received six or more. The invitations often promise to educate participants about investing strategies or managing money in retirement.

 “Instead of unbiased financial education and a meal, many free-meal seminar attendees are being fed a hard sales pitch for investment products that are often unsuitable,” said Hampton.

To help fight this problem, DISB is urging senior investors throughout the city to volunteer as a Free Lunch “monitor” as part of a nationwide campaign sponsored by the AARP and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which DISB is a member.

“The Free Lunch Monitor program gives older Americans an opportunity to fight fraud and protect their hard-earned dollars from unscrupulous investment promoters by reporting possibly questionable investment practices in their communities to state securities authorities,” Hampton said.

Volunteer monitors participating in the program are offered a simple checklist to take with them to a free lunch seminar. The checklists help assure that both the products promoted at free investment seminars, as well as the promoters, conform to securities laws and regulations. The completed checklists are forwarded to AARP, which sends them to the appropriate state securities office for evaluation.

For more information about the Free Lunch Monitor program and to become a free lunch monitor, please visit aarp.org/nofreelunch.

DISB is also urging residents to attend its free, non-commercial investor education seminar series, How Can I Afford Retirement? to learn about the common investment and retirement planning mistakes, understand common methods of financial fraud and abuse and discover basic investment strategies for retirement. Hampton said that financial literacy requires developing a skill set people use every day to make better financial decisions, as well as providing access to financial information especially for those who cannot afford an advisor. The next seminar, Closing the Gap: Investment and Expense Strategies - Even for Late Starters, is May 28, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at Howard University Law School, 2900 Van Ness Street, NW. To register, visit affordretirement-dc.org or call (202) 290-2184.