When alarm bells should ring
saving peoples savings alarm bells her

Caution -- always a virtue when it comes to money -- is especially warranted if you're presented with any of these investment "opportunities":

Crowdfunding

A 2012 law lets startups raise money in online investment pools.

First, though, the SEC has to set crowdfunding rules, so for now skip any come-ons using that buzzword, says Consumer Federation of America's Barbara Roper. Until the SEC acts, she says, "any project you see is almost certainly a scam."

Self-directed IRAs

Their lure is that you can pick from a wider investment menu than what's typically allowed at banks and brokerages -- think partnerships or direct ownership of real estate. But illiquid investments can burn you if you have to take an IRA distribution.

And criminals are increasingly using these IRAs to make frauds look credible, say regulators.

Free seminars

Targeting special groups such as retirees, these gatherings can include good advice.

Advisers running them, however, are often just stoking fears so they can sell you something, says AARP's Sally Hurme. Don't buy in until you run the deal by an objective, informed third party.


  @Money - Last updated March 25 2013 12:08 PM ET
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