Tips for Avoiding Investment Fraud

Investors should always be on alert for investment scams. FINRA published an alert to warn investors about classic types of investment fraud and help them spot and avoid the persuasion tactics fraudster’s use. The following information is taken from that article:

Types of Investment Scams

Investment scams can take many forms, but the most common securities frauds tend to fall into the following general schemes:

  • Pyramid Schemes: Where fraudsters claim that they can turn a small investment into large profits within a short period of time, but in reality, participants make money solely by recruiting new participants into the program. Pyramid schemes eventually fall apart when it becomes impossible to recruit new participants.
  • Ponzi Schemes: Where a central fraudster collects money from new investors and uses it to pay purported returns to earlier-stage investors rather than investing the money as promised. Ponzi schemes tend to collapse when the fraudster can no longer attract new investors or when too many investors attempt to get their money out.
  • Pump-and-Dump: Where a fraudster deliberately buys shares of a very low-priced stock of a small, thinly traded company and then spreads false information to drum up interest in the stock and increase its share price. The fraudster then dumps his shares at the high price and vanishes, leaving many people with worthless shares of stock.
  • Advance Fee Fraud: These scams generally begin with an offer to pay you an enticingly high price for worthless stock in your portfolio. To take the deal, you must send a fee in advance to pay for the service, but then you never see your money again.
  • Offshore Scams: These scams originate in another country and target U.S. investors. Offshore scams can take a variety of forms, including those listed above. Unfortunately, whatever form an offshore scam takes, it can be difficult for U.S. law enforcement agencies to investigate fraud or rectify harm to investors when the fraudster acted from outside the country.

Red Flags of Fraud

To avoid being drawn into a scam, look for these warning signs:

  • Guarantees: Be suspect of anyone who guarantees that an investment will perform a certain way.
  • Unregistered products: Many investment scams involve unlicensed individuals selling unregistered securities.
  • Overly consistent returns: Any investment that consistently goes up month after month, or that provides remarkably steady returns regardless of market conditions, should raise suspicions. Even the most stable investments have hiccups once in a while.
  • Complex strategies: Legitimate professionals should be able to clearly explain what they are doing. It’s critical that you understand any investment you’re considering.
  • Missing documentation: If someone tries to sell you a security with no documentation, he or she may be selling unregistered securities.
  • Account discrepancies: Keep an eye on your account statements to make sure account activity is consistent with your instructions and be sure you know who holds your assets. Fraud can more easily occur if the advisor is the custodian of the assets and keeper of the accounts.
  • A pushy salesperson: No reputable investment professional should push you to make an immediate decision about an investment, or tell you that you’ve got to “act now.”

If you’re able to identify red flags of investment frauds and you know some of the most common types, you’ll be better equipped to avoid these types of scams and protect your financial future.

Best Rated Investment Newsletters Guide: What to Look for in Quality Stock and Investing Newsletters

If you’re becoming serious about investing, then it’s time to consider subscribing to a newsletter. The better ones aren’t for free, because the advice they offer is very, very useful and valuable. Pricing structures and availability all vary as well. The best rated investment newsletters tend to be the ones that are offered by established companies with quality reputations.

One important thing to look for is a newsletter that implements a strategy with a “buy-and-hold” investment style, and a high percentage of average return performance with its picks. If the return performance percentage is over 100%, the better the quality of the information and analysis.

Not only should you be provided with new stock recommendations every month, you should also be provided with an in-depth analysis about WHY each of those stocks is recommended. Even if you make the decision not to invest in those particular stocks, you will at least be better educated about how the stock market works and which indicators to look for when evaluating any stock or other investment opportunity.

If stocks aren’t your thing, then look for the best rated investment newsletters that allow subscribers to decide which specific type of investment they wish to receive information about. The price might vary depending if you want to subscribe specifically to a stock newsletter, “rule breakers” kind of newsletter, comprehensive retirement guidance, and so forth.

Why Subscribe to the Best Rated Investment Newsletters?

Why subscribe to a newsletter in the first place where there are so many “free resources” and “tools” available on the internet? Because when it comes down to it, you really can’t trust everything you read for free. Even if some of the information is legitimate, how confident are you in your ability to weed out the worthless stuff from the useful? And do you really think the top, knowledgeable experts in the world are going to spend their time evaluating and analyzing investment opportunities and the stock market for free?

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a whole lot of money for a subscription to a quality newsletter. Sometimes you can find coupons or internet discounts to bring the price down.

You get a lot more than just an analysis on stock picks. Depending on which subscription you choose, you can receive “model portfolios” with examples and guidance, community resources, and many other great features and perks.

Of all of the best rated investment newsletters, the one that gets recommended the most is The Motley Fool. Discounts are available to help you save on whichever specific newsletter you are interested in, whether it’s “Rule Your Retirement”, “Rule Breakers”, “Market Pass”, “Stock Advisor” or one of the many others.

5 Smart Investment Tips to Help You Make Better Decisions With Your Money

There is so much information on the internet these days about investing for beginners and experts alike that it can be hard to sort through it all.

No matter what kinds of markets and industries you are interested in, or your level of expertise, here are a few smart investment tips that anyone can follow:

1. Only invest in things that you understand. Don’t just put your money wherever your broker (if you have one) tells you to, without first learning WHY you should put your money there. For instance, we all know that technology is the future, but that doesn’t mean everything involving technology will make a good investment.

2. Don’t just assume that investing in multiple mutual funds will automatically “diversify” your portfolio. Always look beneath the surface of each fund to see what all is there. It’s not uncommon for a lot of mutual funds to actually own a lot of the same stocks.

3. If you want to put your money in a bank to earn interest, whether it’s through CDs, money market accounts, or savings account, go with an online bank that has a lot of positive views. Online banks are better able to provide higher yields than traditional banks.

More Smart Investment Tips

4. One of the most important “smart investment tips” is to NEVER allow your emotions to get in the way. The stock industry has no place for emotions. No matter how wonderful you feel about a particular opportunity, it might not really be the best. Always take a bit of time to do research first. It’s the same when it comes to selling stock. Don’t think that just because you’re having a good day that it’ll be a good time to sell. Always be calm – never allow yourself to feel panic. Try to be as objective as possible when looking over the larger picture.

5. Everybody has a “risk tolerance level” and it’s important that you learn yours as soon as possible, if you haven’t already done so. Even if all of the indicators are pointing towards you getting a huge, don’t invest any more money than you can afford to lose. What if the unexpected happens and you wind up losing money anyway? Will you be able to handle the loss?

You can get many, many more smart investment tips from some of the best experts at Motley Fool. It’s the best place to learn about all aspects of investing. Regardless of your level of knowledge and experience, Motley Fool offers everything you need for conducting research.

Financial Advisor Or an Investment Advisor?

We the investors of the world have provided the funds that corporate America has needed to finance their growth over the past two hundred years in exchange for the right to share in that growth and profits previously only afforded owners. The investor/ management relationship has worked out so well that a whole industry evolved to fulfill the growing number of investors needs for information and advise to assist investors in making sound investment decisions. The Financial Services Industry, which originally was only available to the very wealthy, has grown over the decades to be the provider of investment information to roughly 40% of American families.

Most financial advisors are affiliated with large investment firms that funnel the firm’s collective knowledge, information and expertise to their cadre of advisor to pass on to individual and institutional investors. In theory this gave those investors associated with large firms potential for returns that could not be achieved on their own or with an association with smaller or independent advisor.

Thus the Financial Advisor that advised you and me was actually taking the firms “expert knowledge”, adapting it to our sanitation and advising us where we should be investing our savings to achieve our financial goals. We were told that since 1900 if you stayed invested in a well diversified portfolio you would never have less then when you started in any ten year period.

So what happened over the past decade? Most of us lost a sizable part of our savings in the 2001 Tech Bubble only to loose more of our savings in the Sub Prime Bubble. The $100,000 that we had in January 2001 shrank to $60,000 by October 2003 then grew to $80,000 in July 2007 and is now worth $40,000 today. We’re eight years closer to retirement and wondering how we’re going to survive if we ever do get to retire.

Do we just plan on working for the rest of our life? Do we work until we can’t then go in Medicaid and welfare become a drain on the United States economy? Do we take what we’ve got left and develop a strategy and lifestyle that will allow us to live out a comfortable life without being a burden on or children and our country?

I personally think the last option is the best option, but it is going to take an adjustment in our attitudes and lifestyle. One of the adjustments has to be in how we look at the investment markets and out financial advisors. Whether you should change Financial Advisors or not, now is the time to asses the performance of your current advisor and decide if it is time to make a change. I am speaking of a Financial Advisor not an Investment Advisor, there are less then 5% of the world’s population that should be seeking the services of an Investment Advisor. The investment markets are not a place for most of us to turn to make money; they are a place for us to preserve the capital that we have left and grow that capital at reasonable rates of return.

The first step in choosing your new Financial Advisor is for you to decide what you want from your advisor after your attitude adjustment. Here are some of my suggestions:

o Help me preserve the capital I have left and grow it at a conservative rate of return.

o Help me to live within my means and set an investment strategy based on my needs and goals.

o Help me protect my family form the loss of my earning ability or my death.

o Help me and my family achieve our financial goals prior to retirement.

o Help me accumulate enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

o Help me assess my need for long term care insurance.

o Help me establish and estate plan.

Once you know what you want from your advisor you’ll need to find a qualified provider. As in all professions the first qualification you need to look for is education. Your potential advisors will have a Series 66 or a Series 7 securities license as well as an insurance license and a variable products license. A Series 66 allows them to sell mutual funds and a Series 7 allows then to sell stocks, bonds, options as well as mutual funds. A Series 7 is a more in-depth course of study then the Series 66, so I’d eliminate anyone who doesn’t have a Series 7 securities license.

Seventy percent of the people representing themselves as Financial Advisors stop their education beyond their licenses and their required annual continuing education. It’s the other 30% of the advisors that you are looking for. These are the people with initials behind their names representing professional designations. At the top of this designation pecking order is the CFP (Chartered Financial Advisor) designation. A CFP is comparable to a master’s degree in financial planning; it takes three years of study and at least three years of practical experience. To find a CFP in your community go to: cfp.net/search. Other designations like the ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) and CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) are focused on specific segments of the financial advisory field. These designations are comparable to Board Certifications in the medical fields, and I personally would not put my finances in the hands of anyone who doesn’t take their profession seriously enough to seek all the education that is available. This search can leave you with a list of three to three hundred depending on the size of your community. I suggest that you check BestofUS.com a website that lists the best of ten professions across the United States. This should help you bring your list down to a manageable number of qualified advisors.

Next go to the NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) website and look up your short list of qualified advisors. (finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/index.htm) Here you’ll be able find out your potential advisors work history, license history and if they have had any legal or disciplinary action brought against them. We’ve gone through some pretty tough financial times over the past ten years and a lot of good advisors have been sued, so use this information as a means of asking your potential advisors some tough questions. “Can you tell me what these issues are about?” Now Google your short list and see what you find; you’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.

At this point, you need to sit down with those left on your short list. Here is a list of questions that you should ask.

o What is your approach to financial planning? If they don’t address the “Help me” points above their not a Financial Advisor. If they start talking about Managed Accounts, Sector Investing, Momentum, Technical verse Fundamentals, or Option Strategies your talking to and Investment Advisor.

o What was your book of business worth on March 1, 2008 and what is your book of business worth today? Can I see supporting reports? Their going to ask to see your finances, it’s fair for you to ask to see theirs and if it’s down more then 25% you’re in the wrong place.

o How are you paid? There are only three possible answers here; commissions, asset base compensation, or fees. Most will be a combination of the three possibilities; the one that you want to watch out for is commissions. Commissions can create a conflict of interest. Asset based compensation means as your assets grow their compensation grows or as your assets go down so does their compensation. I liked that it results in a common objective. Fees will involve special work like a financial plan or a research project relative to your specific situation, and that’s fair.

o How often will we meet to review my situation? This needs to be at least twice a year.

o Tell me about yourself. How long have your been in the business? Do your have any professional designations? Have you had any legal or disciplinary action taken against you? What is your employment and education background? Have you written any books or articles that I can read? You know all the answers, just sit back and judge.

If you’ll follow this process you’ll find the Best Financial Planner for you. You may end up with the person that you’ve been using, but you now know they are qualified to provide you with the service that you need from your new Financial Advisor.

Choosing your Best Financial Advisor can be as important as choosing your Best Physician, so do your homework and then take responsibility for your decision. As is managing your health you have to take an active role in the management of your finances; stay involved and understand everything.

Financial Investment Newsletter Info: The Best Newsletter for Long-Term Investment Strategies

There is so much information on the internet about investing that it can make things more difficult and confusing for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience. Even if you’re someone who does have a bit of experience, there is so much information and misinformation that you can never know for sure where to turn to. One of the best things any investor can do is to sign up for a legitimate financial investment newsletter.

Sure, much of the information out there is free, but the truly valuable information is something you’ll have to pay for. The truly valuable ones are the ones that have top experts and analysts offering carefully selected recommendations. Before selecting a newsletter to subscribe to, read reviews to learn about other people’s experience with that particular newsletter. Do a bit of research on the people behind the newsletter to make sure they really are knowledgeable experts.

You shouldn’t just receive recommended picks on where to put your money, you should also be provided with a database of knowledge presented in an organized, easy-to-understand manner. Transparency is important also. The people behind the financial investment newsletter shouldn’t offer any “get rich quick” scams, but rather offer realistic long-term strategies. Some even go so far as exploiting deep inefficiencies in certain markets.

Financial Investment Newsletter Sources

How do the providers of the newsletter get their information? They usually rely on studying major factors surrounding the nation – state geopolitics, and jump on opportunities for exploiting the changes in both the nation’s markets and the global markets. The information is carefully reviewed by experts to determine what is most credible. The information subscribers should receive must be as low-risk as possible and the return on the investment should be at least 5x.

Communication is a key aspect of any service, and it’s the same with a financial investment newsletter. As a member, you should get access to a Q&A database, a members’ form, customer service, bonus investment ideas, tips for stock picks, trade alerts, portfolio information, and so forth.

Before signing up to any paid newsletter service, make sure you get an unconditional money back guarantee of at least 30 days.

There are some investors who like the strategy of investing in industries around the world that are currently not doing so great and priced really low, yet still has fundamental indicators that a rebound is likely.

If this kind of investment strategy is ideal for you, or you are a patient investor who wants to know where to best put your money for the long-term, one financial investment newsletter for you to join is Capitalist Exploits. It gets tons of positive reviews and offers a 30-day money back guarantee.