Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!
Top Financial Advisor Scams and How to Avoid Them
Bernie Madoff, the once highly regarded investment advisor turned Ponzi swindler, exemplifies the dark underbelly of the financial advisor field. At first, Madoff appeared to be the perfect financial professional for his clients. The rich and elite had no idea their stellar returns were funded by incoming Madoff investors. If the wealthy elite can get snookered by a financial advisor, what’s to protect the average individual from the same fate? Beware of financial advisor scams and learn how to protect yourself.
- While there are many honest financial advisors, there are also many unscrupulous ones engaging in fraudulent behavior; it’s important to know the most common ones to look out for.
- Bernie Madoff has become synonymous with the Ponzi scheme, in which the payment of returns to current investors come from money deposited by new investors; meanwhile, the advisor siphons off some of the money.
- The affinity fraud targets a group, often in combination with a Ponzi scheme, such as a religious organization or friend group, by convincing the group to go along with a scam because their friends are involved.
- Other scams include misrepresenting qualifications, such as claiming experience or certifications you don’t have or promising unrealistic returns, such as claiming an investment will generate huge numbers.
- With a “churning” scam, the advisor makes lots of unnecessary trades, which costs the customer in commissions and often results in less-than-stellar investment returns.
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), “A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organizers often solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk.” The Ponzi scheme is a classic scam and incorporates components of other scams as well. The investment proceeds in this classic scam are simply the new investors’ monies doled out to existing clients. Without fail, the initiator of the Ponzi scheme siphons money off to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
The affinity fraud targets a particular group with its ploy, frequently in conjunction with a Ponzi scheme. This scam is effective because we tend to trust other members of our “tribe.” The cohort group might share the same religion, cultural background, or geographic region. This affinity targeting makes gaining new participants in the scam easier because there is a built-in level of trust. To further con the participants, the scammer might belong to the group or pretend to be a member.
The following affinity scam-Ponzi scheme targeted Persian-Jewish community members in Los Angeles. Shervin Neman raised more than $7.5 million for investment in his so-called hedge fund. He promised that the fund invested in foreclosed real estate which would be quickly bought and then resold for a profit. In reality, Neman used the money raised to fund his extravagant lifestyle and pay off new investors.
Misrepresentation of credentials is another way financial advisors scam the unsuspecting public. The field of financial planning is ripe for malfeasance because there is not one particular credential or licensing requirement to practice. In fact, there are dozens of financial planning designations such as certified financial planner (CFP), registered investment advisor (RIA), certified public accountant (CPA), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and many more. The public may not be aware of the designations, ethics, or requirements for certification and thus may be receiving advice from someone with no education, experience, or background in the investment advising field. It’s quite easy for someone to hang up a shingle and start doling out advice. The scammer can then close up shop and walk away with the proceeds or swindle the unsuspecting clients with fake products.
Promising or even guaranteeing higher than market returns for your investment is a common trick. The popular axiom, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” is usually accurate. It is unlikely that an advisor can offer a client returns that are unavailable to the rest of the world. This scam preys upon the clients’ greed and dreams of easy money. If an advisor offers or guarantees returns higher than 12-15%, it is likely a scam. For example, over the last 85 years, the U.S. stock market has averaged approximately 9.5%. This return is not a “safe” return, but quite volatile, meaning there were many negative return years over the decades.
In 2020, owners of a Dallas, Texas-based voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offered Christian investors, affiliated with a private school, returns as high as 1,000% per year to invest in their company, Usee, Inc. As one would expect, they have been prosecuted by the SEC.
Many stockbrokers have been charged with the “churning” scam. Since traditional stockbrokers are paid when their clients buy or sell a security, they can be motivated to make unnecessary stock trades to pad their own pockets. The churning scam involves the financial advisor making frequent buy and sell trades, which not only costs the customer in commissions but usually results in sub-optimal investment returns.
There are many other investment scams as well as additional varieties of the schemes mentioned above. Next, find out how to avoid falling prey to a shady investment advisor.
Vet and verify the financial advisor’s background. Find out if the advisor has received any disciplinary action or complaints. These websites help uncover unscrupulous advisors: www.finra.org/brokercheck, www.adviserinfo.sec.gov, www.nasaa.org, www.naic.org, and www.cfp.net.
Ask how the advisor is compensated. Is it by the commission, assets under management, fee, or a combination of payment structures? If the potential financial advisor is unclear or hedges when asked about fees, walk away. Ask for the advisor’s ADV Part II document which explains the professional’s services, fees, and strategies.
Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!
When discussing investment ideas and strategies, ask about the advantages and disadvantages of each recommendation. There are no perfect investments, and every financial product has a downside. If the advisor is unclear or you don’t understand the investment, it may not be for you. Although, you may consider gathering a second opinion.
Do not give the financial advisor a power of attorney or ability to make trades without first consulting you. Require every financial action to be cleared with you first. Further, make certain you receive statements not only with the advisor’s letterhead, but also from the custodian, or financial institution which holds your money and investments.
When vetting a potential advisor, it’s important to ask for names of satisfied, long-term clients. However, while this is a good idea, in theory, this protection has a downside, as the referrals could be prescreened or friends of the advisor.
The Bottom Line
Do not act in haste. Always take time to think about or “sleep on” a financial decision. An attempt to rush you should be a red flag. If there’s a good opportunity today, it won’t go away tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to walk away if an offer doesn’t seem right.
A Beginner’s Guide to Bitcoin Cloud Mining
By: Ofir Beigel | Last updated: 11/13/19
Cloud mining is a general term given for sites that charge a monthly fee in exchange for mining cryptocurrency for you. In this post I’ll cover what cloud mining is in detail and expose the truth about its profitability.
Cloud Mining Summary
Cloud mining is a term describing companies that allow you to rent mining hardware they operate and maintain in exchange for a fixed fee and a share of the revenue you’ll make. It basically means that you can mine remotely without the need for buying expensive mining hardware.
Most, if not all, cloud mining companies today are either plain scams or work through an ineffective business model. By ineffective I mean that you will either lose money or earn less than you would have by just buying and holding Bitcoins.
That’s cloud mining in a nutshell. If you want a more detailed review about cloud mining and a specific profitability analysis, keep on reading. Here’s what I’ll cover:
1. How Does Cloud Mining Work?
Since mining Bitcoins at home is so incredibly expensive many people are looking for cheaper solutions that don’t involve buying hardware that eats up electricity and will quickly become outdated.
In light of this, cloud mining seems like the perfect solution: You “rent” hash power from miners that are located in a remote, cool location. The cloud mining company takes care of maintaining the miners and you share the revenues of the operation.
If you google the term “cloud mining” you’ll find endless possibilities to jump on board. Most of these website will show you tons of confusing numbers (especially if you’re a newbie) and promise that cloud mining is “the easiest and most efficient way to earn Bitcoins”.
So everything looks OK, except you can’t always rely on these companies to deliver on their promise.
2. Best Cloud Mining Services
It’s hard to recommend a specific cloud mining company since these companies are more often than not complete scams. However, there are some legit options out there.
Legit cloud mining companies
When I say legit, I don’t mean profitable or reputable, I’m only referring to the fact that they actually own hardware and mine Bitcoins.
Three known examples are Genesis Mining, Bitclub Network and Hashflare. However, I’ve taken a deeper look at all of these companies and in each one there are huge red flags that come up.
Lose Lose Situation
The main model legit cloud mining companies use is a “lose lose” paradigm. If Bitcoin goes up in price you’ll earn less than if you just bought it. If it goes down – you won’t earn anything and you’ll probably lose the money you’ve invested.
I’ve written about it extensively here in the past but here’s how it works in a nutshell:
Aside from the cloud mining contract payment which is usually a fixed sum, companies charge a maintenance fee. The maintenance fee is the cost of running the mining hardware, cooling it, storing it, etc. The maintenance fee is usually calculated in USD per mining power unit (e.g. $0.14/TH).
Since mining revenue is accumulated in Bitcoin and maintenance fees are paid in fiat, if Bitcoin’s price falls the revenue might not be enough to cover the ongoing maintenance. In that case, the company will just terminate your mining contract without any refund.
Here’s an exact quote from Genesis mining:
In the event of a contract becoming unprofitable (i.e. the payout can’t cover the maintenance fee), the resulting daily payout will be zero. After that, the contract will continue to mine for 60 days….If the contract does not return to profitability in this period it will be terminated….
On the other hand, if Bitcoin’s price shoots to the moon, the mining difficulty usually goes up as well, making your miners less profitable. To sum it up, in both cases you’re probably better off just buying and holding Bitcoins. You’ll either lose less or earn more.
If you do a quick search online or even read my own reviews about these companies, you’ll find a large amount of testimonials from people who got their contracts terminated during the long crypto winter that started in 2020.
Scam cloud mining companies
Aside from legit cloud mining companies, we also have complete scams. When Bitcoin started to gain momentum, a lot of ponzi schemes came to play, with the most famous ones being Bitcoin Savings and Trust, Bitconnect and OneCoin.
Another name for Ponzi is “Pyramid Scheme”. It’s a type of investment scheme where you need to invest money in order to participate. The people who came in first get paid by the ones that came after. Eventually the payouts stop for some reason and the people at the bottom of the pyramid are left with nothing.
In my opinion (and in the opinion of respected others as well) most of the cloud mining companies are plain Ponzi schemes. Meaning these companies don’t actually have any mining rigs set out in a remote location and the money that you pay is used for paying out older customers and the company itself.
Most people won’t press charges when a few hundred dollars are stolen from them, so when the company goes bankrupt or just plain vanishes, all that is left are a bunch of angry people. Hey, it happened to me as well…
4. Do Your Own Research
If you’re still not convinced and want to go down the road of cloud mining, make sure to conduct ample research before pulling out your wallet. Here’s what I suggest:
look for References
For almost every fraudulent website on the web there’s someone who already posted about it. Either search BitcoinTalk for information about that company or go to BadBitocin for a list of the well known scams.
If you’ve already been scammed and couldn’t find any reference, I advise posting on one of these sites to help other users out.
Don’t Invest More Than You Can Afford to Lose
Probably the most important tip – if you’re going to get into cloud mining, do it little by little, and NEVER (and I mean NEVER) invest more than you can afford to lose. The way most of these companies work is that they lure you in, little by little, and once you get the big money in they close down without any notice.
The Bitcoin Scam Test
I’ve developed our own methodology for inspecting different Bitcoin related sites. It’s a series of questions that will eventually give you a pretty good idea if the site you’re looking at is a scam or not. You can take the test here.
5. Conclusion – Is Cloud Mining Profitable?
If you want my advice – stay away from cloud mining. There are too many question marks around this area to make it legit.
I think that if you’re serious about investing in Bitcoin then you’re better off buying Bitcoin and holding rather than mining it.
If you’ve had your own experience with cloud mining I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Fraud Warnings Fraud Alerts A From Financial Authorities.
Fraud Warnings Fraud Alerts A From Financial Authorities.
Almost all firms offering financial services in your country must be authorised by your local Financial Services Authority, therefore you should only deal with authorised firms.
Unfortunately there are firms that operate without authorisation and some knowingly run scams like share fraud and other investment scams.
If a firm does not appear on the Register of Authorized Firms of your local Financial Services Authority but claims it does, search for it in this list of fraud warnings fraud alerts A.
Beware of fraudsters pretending to be from a firm authorised by your local Financial Services Authority, as it could be what we call a ‘clone firm’. If you are cold-called by a financial services firm always ring them back on the switchboard number given on the Register.
We add firms to this list of fraud warnings fraud alerts A, as soon as possible but it is not exhaustive. Do not assume a firm is legitimate just because it does not appear in this list of fraud warnings fraud alerts A, these firms frequently change their name and it may not have been reported yet.
You should take further steps to protect yourself from unauthorised firms and check our list of fraud warnings fraud alerts A.
If you think you are a victim of an Internet scam, Internet fraud, stock and securities fraud or a boiler room and you are looking for help, please contact ISOG lawyers, attorneys at law, private investigators and private detectives to check our fraud warnings fraud alerts A list.
ISOG offers services to assist you with investigating the case, issuing warnings, filing claims with financial authorities and taking legal actions for money recovery.
Please inform us about your case, by the use of this contact form.
FRAUD WARNINGS AND FRAUD ALERTS
THE INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS PAGE IS PUBLIC AND MADE AVAILABLE BY THE FINANCIAL AUTHORITIES OF VARIOUS COUNTRIES.
The Oxford Income Letter Reviews
By focusing on dividend stock investing, Marc Lichtenberg’s The Oxford Income Letter claims to help subscribers earn a passive income with minimal weekly work.
About The Oxford Income Letter
The Oxford Income Letter promises to provide subscribers with cutting-edge insight, along with dividend stock picks and analysis, that can help create an income portfolio that rakes in $1,000 or more per week.
Whether you’re just starting out, are thinking about retiring, or are already retired, editor Marc Lichtenfeld tells us that his system only requires an internet connection, a small starting stake, and less than four hours per week.
From there, you could start collecting just days from now. Just pick out those opportunities that work best for your situation, we’re told, and this simple strategy pretty much runs itself.
According to Marc, he and his Oxford Income Letter team dig into tens of thousands of different investment opportunities each month, and select only a handful that looks promising using the company’s computer-based analysis and statistical modeling. Then, these businesses are screened with a Cash Flow Indicator (CFI), which reveals their current and future cash positions.
Finally, after reading the newsletter, you’ll be able to tap into these already successful businesses and get a piece of the action.
Sure, this all sounds simple and straightforward, but is it? Even then, does the information you’ll obtain with your subscription really represent a perfect retirement business, as claimed on the website?
If you watched the entire hour-long “Perfect Retirement Business” promotional video, you might have been disappointed by the lack of tangible information provided about the Oxford Income Letter. What, exactly, will you get for your money? Let’s dive in and find out.
How Does the Oxford Income Letter Work?
Marc tells us in the promotional video that it focuses on dividend stocks, which companies pay shareholders an annual ‘fee’ to own. Motley Fool explains: “For example, if you owned $1,000 of a stock and it paid a 3% dividend yield, you’d get $30 a year just for owning it.”
“Technically speaking,” they add, “dividends are a redistribution of a company’s earnings directly to its shareholders.”
In the instance of The Oxford Income Letter, Marc applies his 10-11-12 System to dividend stocks, which The Tao of Wealth reports is intended to “give 12% average annual returns and generate 11% yields after 10 years of investing.” This system was originally outlined in Marc’s book, Get Rich With Dividends: A Proven System for Double-Digit Returns.
One Stock Gumshoe reviewer provided some meaningful insight into additional strategies implemented in The Oxford Income Letter when reporting that Marc also focuses “on the FCF [free cash flow; calculated as operating cash flow minus capital expenditures] and relative valuation [the use of similar, comparable assets in valuing another asset; often used in real estate].”
In a nutshell, based on what we learned from the Letter’s site, as well as third-party investing websites, it appears Marc will provide OIL subscribers with a list of companies each month that they might want to consider purchasing dividend stocks in.
How Much Does the Oxford Income Letter Cost?
You’ll pay $249 for 12 monthly issues of The Oxford Income Letter, along with The Oxford Income Weekly (provides updates on current recommendations) and Oxford Email Blasts (short emails featuring urgent new recommendations and opportunities). Important: Subscriptions will automatically renew until you call to cancel.
Your Perfect Retirement Business kit will also include the following special reports:
- “Start Collecting Weekly Payouts With the Retirement Cash Calendar”
- “How to Claim an Extra $130,000 in Social Security”
- “How to Achieve a Seven-Figure Retirement Account. Even if You Think It’s Too Late”
The Oxford Income Letter comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, although you’ll get to keep all special reports. In order to request one, The Oxford Club’s customer support department can be reached at 800-305-3980.
Oxford Income Letter Reviews
Considering that The Oxford Income Letter has been in publication for many years, we found surprisingly little online subscriber feedback during our research.
Reviews on Stock Gumshoe seemed to be mostly positive, though, with many claiming it’s worth the money and provides fairly reliable recommendations.
On the other hand, one Reddit reviewer found that the Letter came with “lots of additional stock alert offers that appear incredibly scammy.” Another found it odd that Marc would share these winning strategies, instead of making an incredible amount of money by keeping them secret.
From a company perspective, The Oxford Club held an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and 37 closed complaints, as of 10/16/17. Overall, most of these appeared to reference profits that weren’t as high as promoted, information that’s not worth the price paid, and difficulty obtaining refunds. In each instance, a representative responded with a resolution.
The parent publishing company, Agora Financial, Inc., wasn’t rated with the BBB as of this same date, although they did have 28 customer reviews (89 percent of which were negative) and nearly 130 closed complaints. Most of these referenced the same issues.
Since The Oxford Income Letter is largely based on the 10-11-12 System found in Get Rich With Dividends, the book had an average Amazon rating of 4.2 stars, based on 70+ reader reviews. Overall, most compliments appeared related to good information, effective strategies, and ease of understanding.
On the other hand, common complaints referenced that it takes more work than advertised, that it’s a long-term approach, which might not be ideal for older investors, and that there’s limited advice for picking stocks (versus just choosing those recommended in the newsletter).
Who Is Marc Lichtenfeld?
In addition to his books, Marc is the senior editor of The Oxford Income Letter, editor for other publications like Tactical Trader Alert, Lightning Trend Trader, and Chairman’s Circle Breakout Alert; Income Specialist at The Oxford Club, and frequent contributor to InvestmentU and SeekingAlpha.com.
After earning his degree from University at Albany, SUNY, Marc previously worked as a senior equity analyst at Avalon Research and an equities analyst at Weiss Research.
How to Decide If The Oxford Income Letter Is Right for You
A quick online search will reveal that there are dozens of companies offering hundreds—perhaps thousands—of different investing newsletters. Some of these are free, while others, like The Oxford Income Letter, cost subscribers hundreds of dollars per year. How can you choose the best option for your needs?
Writing for Forbes, Peter Brimelow reports that most newsletters tend to focus on market anomalies; or, “peculiar areas where the market does not seem to discount information immediately, and can be exploited to achieve superior returns.”
However, these anomalies don’t necessarily represent a ‘better’ investment, as he emphasizes that beating the market average is extremely tough. As such, it could be considered a red flag if a publishing company claims to consistently make spectacular profits with their newsletter recommendations.
Pro tip: Marc Hulbert tracks gains since inception for many of the most popular investing newsletters. While the average stock market return is currently seven percent, you’ll find that most of the highest performers only average between 12 and 14 percent.
From there, Investopedia’s Brian Perry recommends starting by identifying newsletters that align with whatever investing strategy you’re considering. He also notes that you’ll need to account for the cost of your newsletter subscriptions when tallying your overall profit, and that you should never take all of your investing advice from a single publication.
Our Final Thoughts About The Oxford Income Letter
The Oxford Club seemed to have a mostly positive online customer reputation at the time of our research, as did Marc Lichtenfeld’s book Get Rich With Dividends, much of which The Oxford Income Letter is based on.
On top of this, authoritative sites like Investopedia indicate that calculating relative stock valuation on free cash flow could be a more accurate method than focusing solely on earnings.
But like any other type of investment forecasting, they also point out that there is a measure of risk involved, and that dividend stocks tend to be long-term investments that might not be ideal for those looking for quick returns.
With all of this in mind, The Oxford Income Letter comes with a 90-day refund policy, which should be more than enough time to figure out whether or not its recommendations align with your strategy. Again, though, be sure to maintain realistic expectations and base your decisions based on multiple authoritative sources.
Online puppy scams: how I nearly fell for it
Updated October 21, 2020 11:08:01
The online dog-for-sale ad looked trustworthy enough.
- Would-be buyers have lost nearly $300,000 on puppy scams since January
- Puppy scammers place online ads for animals that don’t exist
- Some promote fake courier companies to transport the animals
A 12-month-old Dalmatian needed a new home, because its owners were moving house.
I made contact with the advertiser, introducing myself and my lifestyle, making my puppy pitch to prove that my partner and I would be responsible parents.
At first, the “breeder” asked all the right questions, putting us through the motions to prove our suitability: how would we care for our dog, how would we train him, how often would he be alone?
Then, things got weird.
The “breeder” continued to ignore my questions about their affiliation with any clubs or organisations, and questions about the dog’s parents.
Already offering the pup at what seemed a suspiciously low price, they suddenly offered to throw in a second puppy as well, free of charge.
I would only need to pay for postage.
It is worth noting that reputable breeders do send dogs across the country, and even overseas, but until this point they had not told me they were interstate.
At this point, journalistic rigour kicked in, and I began to sniff out a scam.
Puppy scams involve online advertisements designed to trick buyers into paying for dogs that don’t exist.
In many cases, the sellers pretend to be interstate, and ask the buyers to pay transport costs.
Sometimes they go as far as to provide details for a fake courier company.
Once payment is made, the seller disappears, and the puppy never turns up.
It is a surprisingly common scam: the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it has received more than 600 reports of puppy scams since January this year.
In that time, would-be buyers have lost nearly $330,000 on puppies that don’t exist.
Sussing out a scam
The “breeder” had sent through photos of her pups.
In the seedy world of puppy scams, it is common for scammers to take photos from legitimate breeders’ websites and post them on their own.
I used a tool called a reverse-image search, which checks to see if a picture has been posted somewhere else on the internet.
It is an easy way to see if someone has simply taken a puppy picture from a website and posted it as their dog.
In this instance, the search revealed no matches — but I know savvy scammers can hide their footprints by flipping, cropping or otherwise altering the image so it doesn’t get picked up.
After striking out once, I continued to look for clues that something was wrong.
Digital images carry metadata that can reveal an alarming amount of information about where and how the photo was taken.
Looking at the data attached to my puppy photo, I could see the photo was taken in 2007.
The final piece of proof that something dodgy was afoot was revealed by the simplest step, and the one I should have taken first.
I did a web search of the “breeder’s” email address, which brought up warnings on a dog website that revealed the scammer was quite prolific.
I responded curtly to the most recent email, telling them I had found them out and they could leave me alone, thank you very much.
Real dogs, fake ads
The trouble with a purchase like a puppy is the internet is the most common place to look.
No-one wants to support cruel puppy farms, and many legitimate breeders use online ad sites.
The ACCC’s ScamWatch has been warning about puppy scams for the past decade, and as online advertising has changed, scammers have moved from traditional ad sites to social media.
American breeders Deer Creek Labradoodles recently found themselves at the centre of a scam, which took off on Facebook and spread through many Australian networks.
The breeders found an image of one of their pups had been used on a scam page, long after the puppy had been rehomed.
Deer Creek Labradoodles was flooded with requests, and took to Facebook to warn prospective buyers about the scam.
“They are taking pictures from other people that have bought dogs and are putting them for sale,” the breeders said.
“The red and white puppy that was first advertised for $400 and then changed to $600 is a male named Otis … and Otis already has a home.
“His family has been notified and are upset about their pictures being stolen and used on that site.”
The breeders have tried to contact Facebook to have the posts taken down, but have been frustrated by the process.
Because of the large number of Australians seeing the fake ad, Consumer Protection WA took up the cause, and the page has since been removed.
So, how do you avoid getting scammed?
Tim Adams from Dogs Victoria, the association representing purebred breeders, has some tips.
Look for membership numbers for breeder associations, which members are required to display.
Look into the breeder and check out their web presence.
“Most reputable breeders are quite proud of their breeding and they’ll have a website, and display images of their dogs,” Mr Adams says.
Endeavour to meet the breeder in person, and meet the adult dogs.
Mr Adams says that is important to check the puppy’s temperament, as well as avoid being ripped off.
“If you do all those things, you very much reduce the chances of falling into an unfortunate situation,” he says.
Many breeders have complained about the difficulty in getting sites to act when scams are reported.
But Mr Adams said protections were getting tougher.
“The laws around this are improving, I must say,” he says.
“We’re actually working with the State Government right now on improving protections for legitimate, responsible breeders so it makes it harder for the unscrupulous types to rip people off.”
Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!