Consistency. Like Bernie Madoff’s billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, many fraudulent investments show consistent returns – or promise consistent returns – quarter after quarter, year after year, even when the market itself is in decline. Investments fluctuate, as does the market itself. That’s the nature of investing. Watch out for anyone who promises you otherwise, or whose statements show otherwise; they are very likely running an investment scam.
Excessive Complexity. Some investments are inherently more complex than others, but if a representative, advisor, or broker is unable to clearly explain a product in which she wants you to invest – recognize the lack of clarity as a warning sign that the product may be either too risky or unsuitable for you.
Secrecy. If an advisor, broker, or sales rep tells you that a product’s investment strategy is “confidential” or refuses to answer your questions, you should consider the lack of disclosure a red flag. A legitimate investment opportunity will include full disclosure of the product’s underlying assets, the investment strategy, the expected rate of return, and the risks involved. If you aren’t given this information, it is very probable that either the product is a scam or the person pushing it is a con artist.
Unverifiable Claims. If someone insists that he has assets or connections he can’t – or won’t – back up, you should think twice before you invest in whatever he’s selling. “International connections,” pending “inheritances,” and the ability to raise “venture capital” are all claims previous scam artists have made to rope unsuspecting investors into investment fraud.