Scams and Frauds Involving High Return Investments
Scam artists will do anything to gain your trust in order to entice you to invest in their schemes. They may make promises of huge profits from investing in offshore markets and may even guarantee the returns to give you a sense of security. They are aware of the large amounts of money you pay in taxes and your frustration with earning low returns. They will pretend to share your opinions and sympathize with your frustration.
In one example, farmers were approached through investment seminars about offshore opportunities with guaranteed returns of 15%. One potential investor was told that the large banks use depositors’ money to invest in these same offshore markets for their own profits.
When someone offers you returns that are more than the going rate, there is more of a risk that you will lose your money. Are you taking on more risk than you can afford?
There are several red flags you can watch out for when evaluating investment opportunities, so make sure you know the risks.
Offshore investment opportunities – once you send your money out of the country, you lose any protections provided by the federal laws. Frauds and scams frequently involve an offshore institution to make it more difficult to trace the transactions. Once your money is in someone else’s control you may have difficulty getting it back.
Unsubstantiated guarantees – a guarantee is only as good as the person or company making the guarantee, and their credit rating. If they can borrow money from the bank at 8% and invest it at 15%, why are they willing to pay you 15% on your money?
High return and low risk – the higher the promised return on an investment, the greater the risk. If you think that a guarantee lowers your risk, read about unsubstantiated guarantees, above.
To protect your money:
Be wary of investment opportunities that offer guaranteed high returns and low risk.
Check out the investment opportunity and the registration of the person or company offering you the investment.
Be on the Alert for Boiler Room Tactics
If you get an unsolicited telephone call about an investment opportunity, be alert to the signs of fraud. You might be a target of a boiler room operation.
Boiler room operations wear many disguises and they are once again rearing their ugly head. Boiler room operators hope to give you a false sense of security with promises of quick profits – but the only ones that profit are the scam artists, at your expense.
They may be located in the financial district near reputable firms, but their address may be nothing more than a rented space tucked away from the public eye. Rarely, if ever, are the offers they peddle to your benefit. Why would a complete stranger call to offer you a no-risk, high-return investment? It is too good to be true.
To gain your trust, the salesperson may boast of a business idea that sounds probable - perhaps a company in the medical industry with a new technological breakthrough for detecting cancer. The pitch is that with your investment, the company could go public on the stock exchange and make you more money. The scam artist may also try to play on your sympathies - he or she may know that cancer has taken the life of someone dear to you. Or perhaps they know that you are a busy professional, with extra income to invest and little time to do your own research. Regardless of the background, the investment opportunity will be sold on the promise of quick profits.
If the offer is really such a great deal, there should be no need for a broker to cold call strangers to promote it. Ask yourself why they are calling you.
To avoid becoming a victim of a boiler room, watch out for:
Unsolicited phone call. Don’t be afraid to tell a salesperson not to call again, or simply hang up.
High pressure sales tactics and repeat callers: Take the time to research any investment opportunity and get a second opinion.
Promises of high returns with no risk: Any investment that offers returns higher than the bank rate has risk. If you invest in a high-risk investment, you must be financially prepared to lose your money.
Setup: With the first call, the scam artist may only try to gain your trust by offering information about the company and their alleged success. This is a setup for future calls, when you will be pressured to buy.
Unregistered sales persons: Check the registration of the person offering you the investment.