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10 Signs of an Investment Scam You Need To Know

10 Signs of an Investment Scam You Need To Know

If you’re looking to invest and make money in the stock market, chances are you’ve seen people who are advertising a “sure 100% return,” or similar incredible promises. You might ask yourself, “How is this possible?” Well, in most cases, it’s not. And in most cases, the offers and promises are misleading, if not outright fraudulent.

Even the most sophisticated and experienced investors can be caught up in a good investment scam, as evidenced by the many professional money managers who placed their clients’ money with Bernie Madoff. So what are you, the average-intelligence, average-experience investor, supposed to do to protect yourself from unscrupulous con artists who try to separate you from your hard-earned money?

There are several signs that can alert you that something is not right with an investment scheme, provided you pay attention and know what you should be looking for. Here are 10 of them:

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1. If it seems too good to be true…OK, you know this.

You know it. There are rare individuals who can occasionally make a killing in the market, but they are few and far between. And they generally can’t do it consistently, month after month, year after year. So if someone is guaranteeing a particularly high return and claims that it is steady as a rock, you should run the other way.

2. They are offering a “guarantee.”

No one can guarantee a specific return, unless they’re offering fixed income products like bonds or Certificates of Deposits (CDs). No stock market return can ever be guaranteed. Period.

3. It’s a complicated or unique opportunity.

Sometimes people claim that they have access to a unique opportunity, something that is not offered to regular people. They might use fancy terms like “prime lending certificates” or “private placements,” which actually mean nothing but sound pretty impressive. Or they may claim to have mastered a technique involving futures or forex.

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4. New business models.

Maybe you are offered the chance to get in on the ground floor of a new, “world-changing” technology. Biotech and green tech companies are particularly popular right now. A company claims it holds a patent for something that would truly revolutionize the way the world works, and you are so lucky that you can get in before the big institutional investors do. Guess what? The technology might sound great in theory, but odds are good that it doesn’t even exist.

5. You are brought in by someone you know as a “referral.”

These are some of the oldest scams in the book, and they rely on the power of social circles. The scammer will pay off the people in the initial rounds of the scam, in order to persuade them to bring in more of their friends and associates. You are convinced because you actually know someone who got paid the promised amount. You might get lucky and actually get what you were promised. But once the scammer gets what they want, it’s, “Bye-bye!” And you will be left holding the (empty) bag.

6. Urgency.

Many con artists will pressure you with “limited time offers” in order to force you to make a quick decision. They don’t give you the time to consider whether or not their offer truly makes any sense at all.

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7. They don’t use independent third-party accounts.

No true investment will ever “pool” your money with that of others and hold it in a common account. You should always have your own individual account, which should be held by someone other than the scammer, and you should receive periodic updates. Of course, this didn’t stop Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but it’s a good warning flag for avoiding less sophisticated scammers.

8. Conspiracy theories.

Scammers like to prey on people’s fears. They may imply that the government is actively “preventing” you from getting rich by keeping you ignorant or by barring you from certain types of investments, which they conveniently can offer to you.

9. They are unregistered.

This is a no-brainer. Any legitimate investment company and the person offering the investment must be registered with the SEC or another government agency. Make sure you get verification of this registration. It will not always protect you, but registration at least gives you recourse if it does turn out to be a scam.

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10. Really bad investment advice.

Scammers might suggest you put “all of your assets” into their investment. They might tell you to take out a loan or cash in your 401(k) in order to obtain the funds to invest with them. Anything that goes against common sense should be a huge red flag.

It’s your hard-earned money, and yes, you want to invest it so it can earn more. But invest it wisely, and don’t just give it away to clever con artists.

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Published on November 20, 2018

The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind

The truth is, there are many “money saving guides” online, but most don’t cover the root issue for not saving.

Once I’d discovered a few key factors that allowed me to save 10k in one year, I realized why most articles couldn’t help me. The problem is that even with the right strategies you can still fail to save money. You need to have the right systems in place and the right mindset.

In this guide, I’ll cover the best ways to save money — practical yet powerful steps you can take to start saving more. It won’t be easy but with hard work, I’m confident you’ll be able to save more money–even if you’re an impulsive spender.

Why Your Past Prevents You from Saving Money

Are you constantly thinking about your financial mistakes?

If so, these thoughts are holding you back from saving.

I get it, you wish you could go back in time to avoid your financial downfalls. But dwelling over your past will only rob you from your future. Instead, reflect on your mistakes and ask yourself what lessons you can learn from them.

It wasn’t easy for me to accept that I had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Once I did, I started heading in the right direction. Embrace your past failures and use them as an opportunity to set new financial goals.

For example, after accepting that you’re thousands of dollars in debt create a plan to be debt free in a year or two. This way when you’ll be at peace even when you get negative thoughts about your finances. Now you can focus more time on saving and less on your past financial mistakes.

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How to Effortlessly Track Your Spending

Stop manually tracking your spending.

Leverage powerful analytic tools such as Personal Capital and these money management apps to do the work for you. This tool has worked for me and has kept me motivated to why I’m saving in the first place. Once you login to your Personal Capital dashboard, you’re able to view your net worth.

When I’d first signed up with Personal Capital, I had a negative net worth, but this motivated me to save more. With this tool, you can also view your spending patterns, expenses, and how much money you’re saving.

Use your net worth as your north star to saving more. Whenever you experience financial setbacks, view how far you’ve come along. Saving money is only half the battle, being consistent is the other half.

The Truth on Why You Keep Failing

Saving money isn’t sexy. If it was, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

Some people are natural savers, but most are impulsive spenders. Instead of denying that you’re an impulsive spender, embrace it.

Don’t try to save 60 to 70% of your income if this means you’ll live a miserable life. Saving money isn’t a race but a marathon. You’re saving for retirement and for large purchases.

If you’re currently having a hard time saving, start spending more money on nice things. This may sound counterintuitive but hear me out. Wouldn’t it be better to save $200 each month for 12 months instead of $500 for 3 months?

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Most people run into trouble because they create budgets that set them up for failure. This system won’t work for those who are frugal, but chances are they don’t need help saving. This system is for those who can’t save money and need to be rewarded for their hard work.

Only because you’re buying nice things doesn’t mean that you’ll save less. Here are some rules you should have in place:

  1. Save more than 50% of your available money (after expenses)
  2. Only buy nice things after saving
  3. Automate your savings with automatic bank transfers

These are the same rules that helped me save thousands each year while buying the latest iPhone. Focus only on items that are important to you. Remember, you can afford anything but not everything.

How to Foolproof Yourself out of Debt

Personal finance is a game. On one end, you’re earning money; and on the to other, you’re saving. But what ends up counting in the end isn’t how much you earn but how much you save. Research shows that about 60% of Americans spend more than they save.[1]

So how can you separate yourself from the 60%?

By not accumulating more debt. This way you’ll have more money to save and avoid having more financial obligations. A great way to stop accumulating debt is using cash to pay for all your transactions.

This will be challenging, depending on how reliant you are with your credit card, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will you stop accruing debt, but you’ll also be more conscious with what you buy.

For example, you’ll think twice about purchasing a new $200 headphone despite having the cash to buy them. According to a poll conducted by The CreditCards.com, 5 out of 6 Americans are impulsive spenders.[2]

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Telling yourself that you’ll have the discipline to not buy things won’t cut it. This is equal to having junk food in your fridge while trying to eat healthy–it’s only a matter of time before you slip. By using cash to make your purchases, you’ll spend less and save more.

A Proven Formula to Skyrocket Your Savings

Having proven systems in place to help you save more is important, but they’re not the best way to save money.

You can search for dozens of ways to save money, but there’ll always be a limit. Instead of spending the majority of your effort saving, look for ways to increase your income. The truth is that once you have the right systems in place, saving is easy.

What’s challenging is earning more money. There are many routes you can take to achieve this. For example, you can work long and hard at your current job to earn a raise. But there’s one problem–you’re depending on someone else to give you a raise.

Your company will have to have the budget, and you’ll have to know how to toot your own horn to get this raise. This isn’t to say that earning a raise is impossible, but things are better when you’re in control right? That’s why building a side-hustle is the best way to increase your income.

Think of your side-hustle as a part-time job doing something you enjoy. You can sell items on eBay for a profit, or design websites for small businesses. Building a side-hustle will be on the hardest things you’ll do, be too stubborn to quit.

During the early stages, you won’t be making money and that’s okay. Since you already have a source of income, you won’t be dependent on your side-hustle to pay for your expenses. Depending on how much time you invest in your side-hustle, it can one day replace your current income.

Whatever route you take, focus more on earning and save as much as possible. You have more control than you give yourself credit for.

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Transform Yourself into a Saving Money Machine

Saving money isn’t complicated but it’s one of the hardest things you’ll do.

By learning from your mistakes and rewarding yourself after saving you’ll save more. What would you do with an extra $200 or $500 each month? To some, this is life-changing money that can improve the quality of their lives.

The truth is saving money is an art. Save too much and you’ll quit, but save too little and you’ll pay for the consequences in the future. Saving money takes effort and having the right systems in place.

Imagine if you’d started saving an extra $100 this next month? Or, saved $20K in one year? Although it’s hard to imagine, this can be your reality if you follow the principles covered in this guide.

Take a moment to brainstorm which goals you’d be able to reach if you had extra money each month. Use these goals as motivation to help you stay on track on your journey to saving more. If I was able to save thousands of dollars with little guidance, imagine what you’ll be able to do.

What are you waiting for? Go and start saving money, the sky is your limit.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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