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10 ways to avoid being bilked

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Posted: 3 pm ET

Last fall, the Government Accounting Office reported the results of a study estimating that financial exploitation cost older adults at least $2.9 billion in 2010.

These types of crimes range from caregivers pilfering minor amounts to an appalling story of a CEO and CFO of a California investment firm who were charged with 66 felony counts of elder abuse, securities fraud and conspiracy for bilking older investors out of more than $2.3 million over eight years.

The GAO said financial elderly abuse is increasing and that victims rarely get their money back. These kinds of crimes can devastate your retirement planning and ruin your retirement.

To help combat the problem, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, a professional certification group, has released a free guide, Financial Self-Defense for Seniors. In it, Certified Financial Planner and the board's Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney offers 10 pieces of advice that older people and their families should embrace to protect themselves and their loved ones from financial abuse.

  1. Don't be overly impressed with titles and letters after someone's name.
  2. If you don't understand an investment, don't buy it.
  3. No matter what a financial adviser says, nothing is free.
  4. Just because someone recommends an investment, doesn't mean it is a good choice for you.
  5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true.
  6. Try not to confuse familiarity with trust.
  7. Understand who has the most to gain from an investment -- you or the person selling it to you.
  8. Make sure all the profit isn't coming out of your pocket.
  9. Know your rights as a homeowner.
  10. Remember, you have the right to make the final investment decisions.

Blayney says older people can be too trusting because they grew up in an era when it was safer to trust. "Do your homework. Don't give trust too quickly," she advises.

To get a copy of the guide, send an email to or call (800) 487-1497.

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