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Protecting Fragile Nest Eggs from Investment Fraud

March 15, 2007

Do you know how to avoid a scam? A new survey by AARP Washington found that most people get only half the answers right when questioned about scam tactics. Doug Shadel, state director for AARP, says the survey underscores the need for what he calls "persuasion literacy" to protect retirement nest eggs from fraud, especially as fewer people have employer-funded retirement plans.

"There is this seismic shift in the marketplace right now, of responsibility for retirement security. So everybody, in a sense, is going to become an investor. And this really reinforces the need to give people the tools they need to avoid trouble."

Shadel says the difference between victims and non-victims is not their financial savvy, but their ability to spot and resist a con. AARP and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions kicked off a new financial seminar in Spokane this week, aimed at dispelling common myths about getting rich quick. It will be held in a different Washington city every month.

One interesting conclusion of the survey is that the person most likely to take a big financial risk is a married man who makes more than $35,000 a year. The survey also tested general financial literacy.

One of the survey questions asked people to agree or disagree with this statement: "To make money, there's an easy way and a hard way. Only a select few know the easy way." Shadel says your answer is key to how likely you are to fall for an investment scam because a common pitch is the offer to let you in on "something big."

"We kept saying to ourselves, 'Why would anybody believe that?' Unless you had the worldview that there are this select number of people who just make money easily, they're on the inside, and 'most everybody else is on the outside."

The next "Invest Wise Washington" seminars will be held in Kennewick (April 4), Lynnwood (May 16) and Vancouver (June 20). An "Invest Wise Washington Toolkit" can be obtained online from the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions online at

Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WA