THE many traps that lie in wait for the unwary investor can be avoided - if you know what to look for. There are two ways of finding out about savings traps. The first is to fall into them. The second is to learn what they look like and then avoid them, which is less painful and much less expensive. Escalator bonds, offshore funds, cheap unit trusts and personal equity plans are savings products and investments that have attracted interest over the past year. But they all have traps for the unwary. This is not a comprehensive guide but many of the pitfalls covered have common strands. Glitzy advertising is a major contributing factor. But that generally only works when it comes up against savers' greed, ignorance, or inertia. For example, guaranteed products, high-income investments and escalator bonds are all classic investment examples of the adage there is no such thing as a free lunch. A cynical saver might adopt the following jaundiced views: Most of the relevant facts about financial products lie buried in the small print of the sales literature. The facts the literature leaves out are often more important than those it includes. Most salesmen are motivated mainly by the commission they earn. Most firms are more interested in winning new customers than looking after existing ones. While this in many cases is an unfairly sceptical attitude, for a consumer it is a good starting point. Savers and investors must look after their own interests: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Ignorance is almost never bliss: keep asking questions until you are happy you understand what you are buying. Cost is not everything: price wars in financial services have delivered some excellent value. But the price does not tell the full story - good investment performance is worth paying extra for.