As becoming financially stable interests most, scammers are quick to take advantage with free-meal seminars. It’s important to understand that the ultimate goal of free meal investment seminars is typically to lure new clients and to sell investment products, some demanding that both spouses attend so they can make a decision to invest on the spot. While most people might not see the harm in sitting through an investment seminar, Better Business Bureau recommends researching the investment company first, rather than run the risk of falling victim to promises of big financial returns in exchange for a free meal.
“A little research and common sense is worth the time and can go a long way”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “If you’re not careful, a free meal could cost you thousands of dollars.”
Better Business Bureau offers you the following tips before deciding to attend an investment seminar:
- Research before you RSVP. It’s normal to be impressed by a well-dressed speaker in a high-end venue and to take their advice more seriously. Research the company at bbb.org for a Business Profile before agreeing to attend.
- Protect your personal information. Never provide account information, social security card or pin numbers.
- Ensure the business has a local presence. If there are questions or issues after the seminar who will be your point of contact? Always check whether the person offering to sell you an investment is registered and licensed. Unregistered/unlicensed persons who sell securities perpetrate many of the securities frauds that target investors.
- Be wary of large up-front investments. Untrustworthy schemers might try to convince investors to pay a lot of money upfront so they can get out of town with a large haul, rather than wait for the funds to trickle in.
- Be skeptical of programs which promise high returns for low risk. Every investment comes with some level of risk. If the program claims a high return with little to no risk, beware, even if it comes with the promise of a money-back guarantee.
- Take your time. Seminar leaders often use high pressure sales tactics to get people to sign up without thinking it through. Watch for phrases such as, “only a few spots left” or “you need to get in on the ground floor today to see the largest earnings.” Be skeptical of success stories and testimonials of fantastic earnings. Research before you make any commitment.
- Get everything in writing. Ask about how much money you need to qualify for the investment or sales opportunity, and ask about the company’s refund policy. Remember that if the opportunity is a bogus one, you may not ever see your money again regardless of what you’ve been promised.
- Pay by credit card. This provides you with more options in case you need to challenge the transaction.
- Go with your gut. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always listen to your instincts because the potential payoff is rarely worth the risk.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.