At a time in your life when you should be able to sit back and enjoy your retirement, you instead have to face the very real danger of investment fraud. Scam artists have been known to prey on investors who have reached the golden years, those who are depending on their nest eggs to survive. They have especially been known to target recent widows.
There are many variations of investment scams. However, many scammers follow the same pattern when attempting to defraud unsuspecting investors. In its Senior Investment Resource Center, the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) outlined some of the common practices used by fraudsters. These practices include the following:
Abusing membership or association affiliations. This practice is also referred to as affinity fraud. Scam artists recognize that investors are more willing to trust an investment if the person or company touting it is affiliated with their same group. An affinity group includes people with similar characteristics, such as religion, education, ethnicity or professional background. Before making any investment, conduct research with an independent source.
Promoting “private” or “special” deals. Under securities laws, businesses are allowed to raise capital by selling securities to a limited number of investors. However, these are often risky investments. According to the NASAA, many state regulators have been witnessing an increase in fraudulent private offerings made under federal exemptions and deals that are not regulated at all. You should be very careful about these types of investments.
Offering investments on the side. A broker might offer an “off the books” sale, which could be illegal. These investments are also known to be risky. As an investor, you are advised to proceed with caution if a broker offers an investment that is not sold through his or her employer, but is instead offered as a “side deal.”
Failing to disclose conflicts of interest. You want to be able to trust that the person giving you investment advice has your best interests in mind. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Investment professionals frequently receive large commissions for selling particular investments, which might turn out to be high risk or unsuitable for some investors. You can find out if there is a potential conflict of interest by requesting a disclosure of how the salesperson will be compensated.