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Forum Gives Tips On Avoiding Scams

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) --Each year, scammers swindle almost three billion dollars from five million Americans age 60 and older.

Today the Iowa Insurance Division hosted a forum as part of their effort to put a stop to it.

More than 200 seniors came out to the Kirkwood hotel with one goal in mind, learning how to protect their hard earned savings.

One of them was retired school teacher Martha-Jo Ennis.

"I lost over a million on my half of the farm and I lost 80 some thousand on the savings of my school checks, said Martha-Jo Ennis.

She says she never thought she'd ever fall for a scam, but about five years ago, she did and lost everything.

"It was devastating. The property involved was a farm that we inherited and we sold it and my half, I turned everything over to him, she said.

Martha-Jo says what began with filling out a post card she received in the mail, turned into a door knock from a stranger days later, then into her losing her savings in a Ponzi type scheme.

Stories like hers are why the Iowa insurance division is here in the corridor, to educate seniors about fraud.

"And more importantly what resources are available to Iowans at the state and so we can offer our services to be of help if they think something has happened to them or if they just want to ask a question even, Nick Gerhart, Iowa Insurance Commissioner.

The Iowa Insurance Division says scammers tend to focus on Iowa because the state has a large population of seniors.

"With individuals over the age of 85 we rank number two, over the age of 75, we rank number five, and over 65 we rank number four and scammers know this, said Al Perales, an investigator from the Consumer Protection Division.

Al Perales says to avoid scams, it is vital to contact the insurance division to learn if an investment offer is legitimate.

Insist on receiving regular reports on investments and take the time to do research before investing.

Another way to avoid scams is to always ask questions.

If you have a financial advisor, they are required to explain anything that doesn't make sense before you invest.
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