Caution -- always a virtue when it comes to money -- is especially warranted if you're presented with any of these investment "opportunities":
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."
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.
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.
When lives were disrupted by flood or fire, these MONEY heroes jumped in to help rescue their neighbors' finances.