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Fraudulent investment schemes are often marketed by telephone salespersons armed with high pressure and sophisticated selling techniques. Some swindlers surround themselves with the trappings of legitimacy -- rented office space, a receptionist, investment counselors, and professionally designed color brochures describing the investment.

Seniors are a prime target for fraudulent investment schemes since many have saved a good amount of money for their retirement years. Fraudulent schemes require you to invest your money -- often lots of it. Most promise you either a large increase in the value of your investment or higher-than-market interest on your capital, or both.

These schemes are fraught with danger: in most cases, you will never again see the funds you invested. And you may not even receive the promised interest. If you do receive interest, you will often be paid late. Often, unbeknownst to you, your interest will be paid from the investments of others who are newly brought into the program in order to keep it alive. The swindler hopes these payments will allay any suspicions you might have as to the strength of your investment.

If answers to any of the following questions are yes, you may be dealing with a swindler who wants you to put money in to a fraudulent investment:
* Does the salesperson make it sound as you can't lose?
* Are you promised an unusually high rate of return or interest payment on your capital?
* Are you pressured to make a decision immediately or in a short period of time because new investment units "are selling fast?"
* Does the salesman have any prior successful experience in the investment area he is promoting?

Protect yourself. Be suspicious of any deal that promises fantastic return at little risk. Know whom you are dealing with. If you are not sure, check the company's reputation with your local Better Business Bureau, Postal Inspector's Office, or District Attorney's Consumer Protection Unit.

Protect your retirement nest egg. If you've been the victim of an investment fraud where the mail was used, contact your local postmaster or the nearest Postal Inspector.

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