Be smart when considering an invitation to a free-meal seminar

Contact: Jennifer Bowen
(334) 269-3550


The Alabama Department of Insurance encourages caution when considering invitations for financial seminars promising a free meal.


Gourmet meals and the possibility of winning door prizes are often offered to those willing to attend sessions for insurance products, financial services or retirement planning, among others.


These seminars are typically promoted as free educational events. But they are often platforms for selling products and services, even when advertisements claim nothing will be sold at the event itself.


Whether at a fancy restaurant, hotel or country club, it’s important to know how to navigate such events.


Here are some tips:


Such programs often use language designed to create a sense of urgency. For instance, sponsors may say space is extremely limited or encourage you to call now so you don’t miss the opportunity.


Charismatic speakers, claims of limited availability and upscale meals don’t always mean the investment or product being sold is right for you. Review the opportunity away from the pressure of a sales pitch.


While at the event, ask questions and make sure you fully understand what you’re potentially signing up for. Inquire about the risks of an investment or opportunity. Are there any up-front costs or fees? What happens if you wish to withdraw from the opportunity after you’ve handed over your hard-earned money?


Think carefully before providing personal information or money to anyone at the event. If a product or service is of interest, take the provided material home and review it thoroughly. Do your homework before making any commitments or handing over money.  


If a speaker pressures you into an immediate decision, it’s OK to leave.


As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to carefully investigate any claims made.


Finally, check out the credentials of the presenter or salesperson, especially if you plan to go to their office or invite them to your home to further discuss financial products.


If the agent is selling insurance products, be sure they’re licensed to do so. Call the Alabama Department of Insurance to check if someone is licensed to sell insurance or call the Department of Consumer Services if you have concerns after an event. The number is 334-269-3550.


For investments, call the Alabama Securities Commission at 1-800-222-1253 to ensure the person making an offer is properly registered to sell securities.