Beware of investment scams

By Armond Noble
This item appears on page 85 of the March 2010 issue.

At first glance, it might appear that this month’s subject matter is off our usual topic. But you may find that it could well impact your travel plans.

Would you like to hear about an investment plan that pays 36% a year with NO risk? The most recent person we heard of who was offering such was indicted in federal court in Sacramento, CA, on October 29, 2009.

While Bernie Madoff got the big headlines because that scam was so huge, smaller schemes are going on all the time, in great number. In a recent one, huge returns were promised based on high yields from certificates of deposit in Antigua. You might think that anyone with common sense would wonder how that tiny island, with a population of 76,000, became an economic powerhouse, but it looks like 30,000 Americans got taken on that one!

In Southern California recently the bizarre promises included one at “14% a month” and another at “35% every 90 days.” And, yes, people were lining up to empty their wallets into the pockets of the fraudsters. At this point, FBI agents must be getting really tired of hearing, over and over again, the plaintive cries of “He was such a nice man.” “He was a member of our church.” “He coached my son’s little league team.”

Now, you may be saying, ‘Hey, why are you taking up this space? I’m far too smart to fall for that kind of stuff.’ Well, yes, you probably are. We like to think of our readers as being so brilliant that even MENSA’s membership standards seem pathetically low for them, but, in reality, there are people in great, vast numbers falling for the scams. If we prevent just one person from falling prey, it will be worth the effort. (Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to counsel a friend who is on the verge of being a victim.)

Recently, someone from the ritzy Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay was taken for nearly $400,000, so we can safely assume it was a person with some intelligence who was victimized.

The police must be scratching their heads over what would seem to be somewhat normal people falling under the spell of a man promising 80% (!) a year. One recent miscreant was driving a Rolls-Royce and flying around in a Gulfstream jet until the authorities figured out that he had suckered people out of $300,000,000. He just went to prison, but that doesn’t do the victims any good.

The crooks reach out on every level. One recent victim was a fireman, who was quoted as saying, “I gave him $50,000. All the money I had.”

You or someone you know may be getting telephone calls from brokerage houses you never heard of selling stocks you never heard of. Y ou would think that anyone using just a smidgen of logic might ponder, ‘Why are they calling me here in Peoria? How come all those big investors in New Y ork, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles haven’t already bought up every single share of Amalgamated Widgets International, which I’ve just been promised will double or triple in a month?’

I’m spending time on this because such operations are HUGE! It’ s stunningly successful... for the fraudsters. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t exist on such a massive scale. There’s even a movie about it that you can rent on DVD titled “Boiler Room.”

Just keep saying to yourself, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!’ And if you ever hear, “It’s a sure thing,” “Can’t lose,” “There’s no downside” or “I’m putting my mother into it,” run, don’t walk, as fast as you can.