“Free lunch” seminars will be under even greater scrutiny due to a new program to be launched by AARP and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). Under the program, AARP is recruiting “Free Lunch Monitors” to attend seminars and watch for illegal sales practices. The volunteers will be provided with checklists to complete and encouraged to return the completed forms to AARP, which will share them with state regulators.

“A solid investment portfolio is the bedrock of a financial secure retirement,” explained Jean Setzfand, AARP’s Director of Financial Security Outreach. “By empowering individuals with knowledge and information, we aim to create an educated and financially savvy investor who can spot a scam when … targeted. We also hope (the program) will deter scammers and give state securities regulators an opportunity to investigate them.”

The checklist asks questions such as:

  • How did the person find out about the session?
  • Did the speaker use a title suggesting he or she had special expertise serving older investors?
  • Was a broker or financial advisor recommended or associated with the presentation?
  • Were any investment products recommended and if so, what company offered them?
  • Did the speaker suggest that AARP, SEC, NASAA or another state regulator had endorsed or sponsored the event?
  • Did you feel pressured to make an immediate decision?
  • Was a home visit or appointment mentioned as a follow-up to the event?
  • Were you contacted as a result of the seminar, even if you did not ask to be?