Tips on investing in promissory notes

Promissory note scams often target the elderly with claims of high returns with minimal investment. Some life insurance agents sell promissory notes in addition to policies. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and New York Department of Insurance offer some tips to protect you and your money if you're thinking about an investment in promissory notes.

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  • Beware of any investment sold as "guaranteed" or "no-risk" and advertising a high rate of return.
  • Beware of any investment sold as "guaranteed" from an offshore insurance company.
  • Never succumb to sales tactics that pressure you to make an immediate investment decision.
  • It is not advisable to put all of your savings into one type of investment.
  • Before investing in any promissory note, check with your state securities regulator to confirm that the notes are properly registered or legally exempt from registration. If you cant verify that the notes are registered or exempt, hold onto your money. Research the legitimacy of the company whose notes are being offered. Florida securities regulator Laura Royal says that any investment "guaranteed" by a bond from an offshore bonding company should be thoroughly investigated. Your state insurance department can verify if the bonding company is registered to do business in the United States.
  • Agents selling these "notes" are usually required to be licensed by both the state and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). To find out if your agent is registered or has a disciplinary history, contact your state securities regulator or call the NASD Public Disclosure Hotline at (800) 289-9999.
  • Be suspicious if the notes have an above-market rate with a maturity of less than a year.

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