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You may have lost money in your investment portfolio,
due to mismanagement and not even know it.

Watch out for fraud as retirement approaches

Retirement is certainly something to look forward to. But, for the millions of Americans who haven't been able to save enough to retire comfortably, it can also be quite scary.

There is a whole industry that caters to people trying to make up for lost time as they near retirement. Many of these brokers and advisors are legitimate professionals. But some are charlatans and scammers who are only after your money. Here's how you can protect yourself.

Does it seem too good to be true?

There's no such thing as an investment with "guaranteed" returns. Beware of anyone who makes that promise. Similarly, any investment opportunity that promises to give you big returns in a short time period is likely too good to be true.

An experienced fraudster can make anything seem believable. Trust your gut, and get a second opinion if you are still unsure.

Are you being pressured to act quickly?

An honest advisor or broker will never try to pressure you into making a decision. They'll explain your options and let you decide how to proceed.

If someone is pressuring you to act quickly on a "once in a lifetime" opportunity, or is trying to get you to act on "insider" information before it goes public, be wary. They might just be hoping you'll give them your money before you figure out the truth.

Are you investing based off of fear?

Fear is a common tactic that fraudulent salespeople use to get you to give them your money. For example, they might make you feel so worried about being able to afford long-term care than you have no choice but to invest with them.

It can be hard to walk away from such a high-pressured environment, but it is always best to take time to reflect and cool down before making such a big decision.

Do you have access to your investments?

Trustworthy advisors and brokers are always transparent. They will provide you with regular statements and will allow you to access your principal and profits. If you're being told "leave everything to me" or having a hard time getting straight answers, you might be working with someone who is not honest. The same thing is true if you're being told that your money "can't be accessed."

As an investor, you have a right to be treated honestly. If you are worried that you may have been the victim of fraud, it is always a good idea to talk to a lawyer who can help you understand your rights.

For more information about spotting fraud, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a helpful guide.

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