Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.

Dear Action Line:

I'm recently retired and have done a great job of putting aside a nice nest egg for my wife and I. I've recently been approached by some colleagues who are all planning to invest some of their savings with an investment professional who seems to be a little pushy and at times uses scare tactics to get them to commit. While I do see the value and risk in investing, I don't know a whole lot about how and where to start. Can you offer any advice?

Dear Reader:

I understand your uncertainty. Any time you invest, you take a certain amount of risk; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. However, you can lessen the risk by knowing your basic rights as an investor.

Smart investors know that the best way to minimize your risk is to educate yourself about your rights, the protections you are entitled to under the law, and the common scams and frauds to avoid.

The BBB has partnered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to bring you up-to-date research and tools on investment fraud at www.bbb.org/smartinvesting. You can find a lot of information at that link.

Here are a few key steps to take before you consider investing:

Check out the seller. A legitimate investment professional must be licensed. Before giving out your personal information, ask whether the seller is registered with FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission or your state securities regulator.

Ask questions. Are you licensed to sell this investment to me? Is this investment registered with the SEC?

Check out the investment. Check whether the investment itself is registered. Confirm whether a security is registered with the SEC and get access to a company's financial information by using the SEC's EDGAR Database.

I understand some of this language may seem foreign to most people. Fortunately your BBB serving Central California offers free seminars and workshops on investing wisely and teaches you about avoiding traps and scams that some investors might use to lure innocent victims into giving up their hard-earned money.

These seminars and workshops are designed to help you distinguish good offers from bad ones. They also help you understand the science behind scams. Fraudsters are well experienced at the art of deception and persuasion. We can help you wade through the fraudulent "muck" and help you make wise choices.

For more information on Smart Investing seminars and workshops in your area, contact Joey at 559-256-6331 or joey@cencal.bbb.org

-- Joey Fernandez is assistant director of business services for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or joey@cencal.bbb.org. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.