By DailyFinance ( DailyFinance) -- Call it investor schizophrenia: On the one hand, the volatile stock market has some investors looking for "safety;" and on the other, stock market losses have led some to desperately seek fat returns elsewhere. Either way, you could wind up in trouble, because scam artists are ready to prey on the desires of both. "It's not a matter of simply being greedy, but people are worried they won't have the assets they need when they retire, there is a certain amount of fear and desperation," says Michael Byrne, chief counsel of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission. Unfortunately, he says there is no shortage of scammers who "don't mind nailing widows and orphans." It's estimated that $40 billion is lost per year to investment fraud, says Bob Webster, director of communications of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). Seniors are often on top of the target list. The NASAA recently released its report, 2011 Top Investor Traps and Threats. Given the breadth and depth of the schemes it profiles, you really should be looking over your shoulder. That's not paranoia: It's prudence.
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