There's No Free Lunch at the Free Lunch Seminars

01/11/2016 11:14 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2017

There have been an increasing number of financial advisors who call themselves "Senior Specialists". Often these titles don't require any specific study or experience. Seniors are a very attractive audience for these "specialists". They often have a large portion of their investment assets in cash and CD's. Since rates have stayed down for so long, seniors are looking for attractive alternatives with higher yields.

Many financial advisors have used "free meal" seminars to attract seniors and sell them a number of CD alternative products. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did a study in 2007 noting the many deceptive practices used in these seminars.

If you or your parents attend one of these investment seminars, be very careful. Do not sign an application at the seminar. Be critical of the promises made at the meeting regarding guaranteed returns and safety of principal. Often if statements made sound too good to be true, they often are.

If you or your parents have signed an application at a lunch seminar and given the specialist a check, do some research on the product purchased. There is usually a grace period allowed to return your funds if you change their mind.

The SEC provides important information for senior investors including explanations of different products, asset allocation and risk. You can also get information on affinity fraud, "senior specialists" and investment advisers and what to look for to identify and steer clear of potential frauds at their website.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) also provides important information for senior investors. Its website has such items as Broker Check - that gives you the ability to look up the history of your investment professional to see if they have prior complaints or problems.

FINRA's website also has tools and resources to protect senior investors and help them make informed investment decisions, including "Investor Alerts" that provide timely information on steering clear of investment scams and problems instead of just dealing with their aftermath.

Subjects of recent alerts include " Securities Backed Lines of Credit." Don't Get Fooled by the Lottery Scam" "Don't Be Misled by Early Retirement Investment Pitches That Promise Too Much," "Annuities and Senior Citizens: Senior Citizens should be Aware of Deceptive Sales Practices when Purchasing Annuities," and "Seniors Beware: What you should know About Life Settlements."

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) also has helpful information available for seniors on its website: serveourseniors.org . With at least a third of its members' enforcement actions involving senior investors, NASAA developed this website to provide resources for senior investors, family caregivers, the securities industry, and policymakers.

The SEC's information on professional designations is located at http://www.sec.gov/inv.estor/pubs/senior-profdes.htm

Do your homework and avoid an investment scam offered by a "Senior Specialist."