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AARP Connecticut and State Department of Banking
Monitor Free Lunch Investment Seminars
Older Americans Increasingly Targeted By Financial Scammers

May 11, 2010

With fraud and scams on the rise, older Americans remain a primary target for unscrupulous individuals. AARP Connecticut and the State Department of Banking’s Securities Division joined forces today and launched the Free Lunch Monitor program, which gives individuals an opportunity to fight back against unscrupulous promoters by reporting possibilities of investment fraud in their communities to state securities authorities for investigation. 

According to an AARP survey, titled Protecting Older Investors: 2009 Free Lunch Seminar Report, nearly 6 million Americans age 55 and older have attended a free lunch or dinner in the past three years. Over a quarter of invitees (27 percent) have received ten or more invitations.

For attendees of these free seminars, the potential cost can be quite high.  Of those who attended a seminar, more than three out of four (78 percent) expected that the free financial seminar would center on opportunities to learn more about financial issues. However, once at the seminar, half of seminar attendees said the presenter asked them for personal information, such as their contact information or information about their finances and 46 percent reported that presenter attempted to make a follow-up appointment at their home.  Nearly 40 percent reported that the presenter tried to sell them financial products either during or after the seminar.

Together, AARP and the Connecticut Securities Division are working on a national campaign designed to monitor whether investors are being pressured into purchasing inappropriate or unsuitable investments. The two organizations are asking that if an individual is invited to attend a free lunch seminar, they should bring a checklist with them to help assure that both the products promoted at free investment seminars, as well as the promoters, conform to securities laws and regulations. Information from the returned checklists will be forwarded to individual state securities regulators for evaluation.

“A solid investment portfolio is the bedrock of a financially secure retirement,” said Brenda Kelley, State Director at AARP Connecticut. “By empowering individuals with knowledge and information, we aim to create an educated and financially savvy investor who can spot a scam when they are being targeted. We also hope the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor program will deter scammers and give state securities regulators an opportunity to investigate them.”

“There is no such thing as a free lunch,” stated Banking Commissioner Howard F. Pitkin.  “Oftentimes at these investment seminars, the presenter is ultimately interested in selling a product or signing up new clients.  In a recent study of these types of seminars, 23 percent involved possibly unsuitable investment recommendations.  Having the eyes and ears of Free Lunch Monitors at these events and providing information to our Securities Division will be extremely helpful to all Connecticut investors.”

For more information about the Free Lunch Seminar Monitor Program and to download the monitor checklist, please visit www.aarp.org/nofreelunch. To contact the Connecticut Department of Banking’s Securities Division, please call 860-240-8230 or Toll–free 1-800-831-7225.  You may also visit www.ct.gov/dob for further information. 


About AARP
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 33 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 39 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Viva, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About the Securities Division, Connecticut Department of Banking
The Securities Division of the Department of Banking has responsibility for 1) the registration of securities and business opportunity offerings for sale in Connecticut; 2) the registration of broker-dealers, agents, investment advisers and investment adviser agents as well as the registration of broker-dealer and investment adviser branch offices; 3) the examination of broker-dealer, investment adviser and branch office registrants; and 4) enforcement of the state's securities, business opportunity and tender offer laws.