Scam artists pushing phony investments can be very aggressive in their pitches on the telephone, through the mail or on the Internet. State regulators say it's always best to take a step back and ask a few questions before trusting someone else with your money.
* Who is this salesperson? Be especially cautious about purported investment advisors who call you "cold" on the telephone, arrive uninvited at your doorstep or send you materials you did not request. Always ask to see credentials, and even then check with the appropriate credentialing agency to determine whether the salesperson is legitimate.
* Where are these high returns coming from? To entice investors, people selling fraudulent securities often promise returns of more than 10% on your money over short periods of time. Always question how the person making you an offer will earn high returns. A high return usually requires taking on a high level of risk.
* Where's the proof--in writing? Avoid salespeople who cannot back up claims about the investment product they are offering with documents outlining risks, legal authorization and historical performance. And be skeptical if they do present such documentation. Anyone can publish a slick brochure or put up an elegant site on the Internet.