Free Lunch Seminar Alert

The North Carolina Secretary of State's office is re-sounding the alarm about "free lunch retirement seminars." These often target senior citizens.

First, and as always with pitches, be suspicious of unrealistic returns. State officials say, anyone who guarantees you annual returns of 12 percent or higher is likely giving you an unrealistic return.

The state says scam artists will often make the claim that you can retire on these high annual returns. Always be skeptical of free lunch seminars. That's how salespeople often make their initial contact. The Securities and Exchange Commission determined nearly half of these companies that use free lunch seminars use unethical business practices.

Finally, the state suggests you ask about surrender charges and guarantees before buying an annuity. Some annuities charge you if you try to withdraw money during the first several years. Also, some annuities offer a bonus in the first year, but the guarantee drops after that.

The Securities Division of the N.C. Secretary of State's Office can check the to see if your broker or investment adviser is registered. The toll-free number to call is 1-800-688-4507. Officials suggest you call the hotline and check on the broker and the registration status of the securities offering. You can also get more details about protecting yourself and your money by visiting

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