Receiving fat commissions onvariable annuities (VAs) is ampleincentive for brokers to push them,but sometimes the sales hype crossesthe line. Some brokers targetseniors with scare tactics (eg, claimingtheir money will be safe fromlitigation). In addition to higherexpense ratios, however, VAs typicallyimpose stiff surrender fees ashigh as 7% or more if you cash outearly, which makes them unsuitablefor seniors who may need toget at their money. The NationalAssociation of Securities Dealers(NASD) is cracking down on shadysales practices and has settled with anumber of big-name financial firmslike American Express FinancialAdvisors and Prudential Securities,which have paid fines to the NASDwithout admitting or denying anyviolations. Before you sign up for aVA, check out the NASD investoralert at www.nasd.com/Investor/Alerts/alert_variable_annuities.htm.