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4 red flags that a retirement investment is a scam

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Every year, thousands of elderly Americans lose money to scams. Experts say con artists particularly prey on seniors, hoping to defraud them of decades of retirement savings. The best defense is to know the warning signs — or for a helpful advisor to share them with clients.

The numbers on elder fraud in the U.S. are significant, and rising. In 2021, more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reported being scammed to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which calculated a total of $1.7 billion in losses. That’s a 74% increase over the amount stolen in 2020.

Of last year’s total, nearly $2.4 million was lost through investment scams: a stark reminder that not all cons involve outlandish stories of kidnappings, romance, or unclaimed lottery winnings. Some hustles simply exploit the most practical of desires: to make one’s nest egg last through retirement.

If they can spot a scam before it takes hold of them, retirees and those soon to leave the workforce need not lose their life savings. They just need to know what to look for. Financial Planning asked two experienced fraud experts about the red flags that an investment opportunity is, in fact, too good to be true. Here’s what they told us.