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STEPS TO AVOID BEING STUNG BY SCAM

A little skepticism and a bit of homework can go a long way toward keeping you from being stung by an investment scam.

"If someone calls and promises big returns, be skeptical," advises state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

A little research can help, too.

If you have questions about an investment product, or aren't sure you're getting the straight scoop from an agent or broker, try calling the company and talking to someone else, suggested John Calagna, a Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. spokesman.

Also, check the background of your adviser by getting a copy of the adviser's Central Registration Depository report, which lists a broker's employment history over the past 10 years, along with some customer complaints, pending arbitration cases and legal actions taken against him or her by regulators.

To get a report, call NASD Regulation, the regulatory arm of the National Association of Securities Dealers, at (800) 289-9999.

If you're online, you can go to www.nasdr.com, then click on "About Your Broker." You'll see the broker's employment history and a list of the states where he or she is licensed to do business. If the screen says there's also a "disclosure event," your broker has a potential black mark on the record.

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