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Consumer fraud: Who is most vulnerable to investment scams?

When many people in Connecticut and elsewhere conjure up images of victims susceptible to investment and other types of securities fraud, they might reasonably picture an isolated elderly person who lacks financial acumen, keeps money stashed around the house and is eager to talk with anyone who might call on the phone.

And that includes strangers with tales of gilded opportunities promising astonishing returns on money under the mattress that is entrusted to them.

Indeed, that does fit the profile for a pronounced demographic that is susceptible to bogus sales pitches that ultimately yield material financial pain, but it is hardly a prototypical picture of the type of individual that is most vulnerable to fraudulent investment schemes.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, note investigators from the advocacy group AARP, this representative figure is far more typical prey for scammers: an elderly male that does command some financial smarts, has experience in investing, is not automatically closed off to sales pitches, and believes that taking some risks with unregulated offerings is necessary to garner profit.

Scammers have duly taken note of that, and have far more opportunities to fleece these days, given the decline in company pensions and the rise of online platforms that enable them to easily reach more potential victims than ever before.

The prescription for avoiding disaster that is offered up in a recent media focus on unscrupulous individuals seeking to identify and steal money from vulnerable investors is a mantra that is frequently heard, to wit: Avoid "opportunities" that simply sound too good to be legitimate, and take proactive and unhurried steps to really check out the bona fides of any person who wants to take your money.

There are ways of doing that. Contacting a well-established securities lawyer with a demonstrated history of advocating on behalf of investors -- especially those who have suffered losses through unlawful scams -- can be a solid first step toward securing knowledge and avoiding financial detriment.

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