Ten Red Flags for Investors

Ten Red Flags of Investment Fraud

We’ve updated our list of ten red flags that  investors should be aware of: danger signs that point to potential mismanagement of an account or investment fraud by a financial advisor. These red flags are useful as you evaluate your own investments, review the investments of an elderly relative, or if you’ve decided to change brokers.

From our firm’s first-hand experience in reviewing thousands of financial statements and successfully recovering investment money for many clients, these red flags of investment fraud are often a sign of trouble. If you notice any of these red flags and you have concerns, we encourage you to contact us for a free, confidential review. With early detection, investors have the potential to avoid a lot of heartache and significant financial loss.

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Red Flags:

1. Your financial advisor didn’t discuss your risk tolerance with you, told you “not to worry” about that category when filling out account paperwork, or you somehow ended up with a higher risk portfolio than you wanted.  Any reported swing in portfolio value of more than 10% up or down, when you’re a conservative or moderate investor, is a red flag.

2. You discover that you cannot liquidate investments that you thought you could sell. Or you discover an unexpected high fee or surrender charge for selling.

3. Big portions of your portfolio are used to purchase “alternative investments” – things like interests in limited partnerships (LPs), non-traded REITs, private placements, promissory notes, and interests in limited liability companies (LLCs). Many of these investments come with a prospectus, require you to complete special forms just to purchase them, carry high risk for investors, and pay big commissions to the selling brokers.

4. You are encouraged to purchase investments where you must formally certify that you are an “accredited investor”. These investments also often carry a high degree of risk and are only designed for people who can afford to lose all of their investment.

5. You are advised to purchase investments the same day that they are offered to you, without giving you a chance to think about it, especially when your advisor says that the opportunity won’t last long. If you feel any sense of rush, surprise, or pressure to make any investment decision, that’s a red flag.

6. Your account statements stop arriving, your broker is suddenly hard to reach, or your advisor discourages you from discussing your investments with anyone else at the brokerage company.

7. You have investments that do not appear on the brokerage company’s account statements that you receive.   Or the statements otherwise look irregular, show frequent transactions that you don’t understand, or don’t add up.

8. Your financial advisor promises returns that seem too good to be true. In today’s market, there are no legitimate, safe and secure investments that can guarantee an 8% annual return year after year.  Any promised return that seems like an unusually good deal deserves closer scrutiny.  Risky, unsecured promissory note scams may be particularly targeted towards elderly investors as “fixed income” investments.

9. You are offered an investment that you do not understand.  Or your portfolio contains investments that, on closer examination, are not plausible or understandable.

10. You discover that your advisor has multiple disclosures when you look him or her up on FINRA’s BrokerCheck system (search by name at http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck). Disclosures may include prior client complaints, bankruptcy, termination from prior employers, regulatory investigations and sanctions, criminal charges, on-going or resolved client disputes.  These are all red flags about a broker’s prior conduct that you probably want to know about before entrusting them with your money.

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If you have seen any of these red flags, and have questions about the legitimacy of your investments or seen large financial losses, do not ignore your suspicions. Call us for a free initial consultation.  We will tell you if your concerns are well founded and whether we can help.  Your call is confidential.

Please call us first, before contacting your financial advisor or any regulatory agency.  Why?  Because those calls are not confidential.  Once you contact the firm you can bet that your communications are being recorded, and the details you include or leave out may undermine your claim.  Securities regulators may be important allies in stopping wrongdoing, but they are not your attorney. By reporting a complaint to your state agency, FINRA or the SEC, you may be starting the clock on a statute of limitations for filing a claim, without understanding what that means.

The Investor Defenders at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP help investors get their money back from brokerage fraud, fraudulent investments, elder financial abuse, and other situations. Our specialized investment litigation practice combines familiarity with complex financial modeling, experience with specialized FINRA arbitration rules and securities laws, and empathy for our clients whose financial losses have become personal.

If you have concerns about how your money is being handled by your financial professional, or concerns that you or a loved one might be the victim of financial exploitation, call me at 1-800-647-8130. Consultations are free, and confidential.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP focuses on all stages of corporate and securities law issues, securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, fiduciary litigation in trust and estate disputes, elder financial abuse, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes through FINRA arbitration.

New FINRA Rule to Help Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

On February 5, 2018, a new FINRA rule geared towards preventing financial exploitation of seniors  – also called elder financial abuse – goes into effect. This is new Rule 2165, which creates a limited safe harbor for brokers to put a temporary hold on certain disbursement requests from a brokerage account.

The rule “permits members to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from the accounts of specified customers where there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation of these customers.”  The new rule also amends existing FINRA Rule 4512, to require members to take reasonable efforts to have the customer identify the name of a trusted contact person as part of gathering customer account information. The broker may contact that person if there is a suspicious request for a disbursement of funds. The broker may also contact that person to confirm the customer’s contact information, health status, or identify of any legal guardian, executor, trustee, or holder of a power of attorney.

The new rule permits, but does not require, temporary holds and contacting the trusted contact person. And using it does not necessarily mean a total halt on all disbursements. For example, a broker could put a temporary hold on a suspicious request to transfer funds to an unfamiliar outside account, while still allowing regular bill payments to continue.

This is an important new tool from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) in the fight to curb financial abuse of senior citizens.

Elder financial abuse continues to be a major problem in the U.S., sometimes with devastating results. Fraudsters cheat seniors out of an estimated $3 billion annually. Some believe the dollar figures are up to ten times higher. Nobody is certain of the overall numbers, in part because it is believed that only a small percentage of cases are reported.  Senior financial abuse depletes retirement savings, and it affects our elderly community in other ways.  Studies concentrated on the health effects among those whose essential life savings have suddenly vanished have found that mortality rate can triple. Just think about the stress and emotional impact on a vulnerable senior when his or her financial security is stolen.

State and federal securities regulators are working to prevent elder financial abuse before it happens. But the scammers are out there. What can you do if you or a loved one has been financially exploited?

Contact an attorney experienced in recovering financial losses. In many circumstances, money unlawfully taken can be recovered. In my work as a litigator, I’ve helped curtail and restore money improperly taken from elders in estate and trust disputes among family members. I have helped recover money from brokers “selling away” from their firm, selling unapproved, extremely risky, or even outright fictional investments to unsuspecting elderly clients. We see bad actors unduly influencing seniors to sell undervalued property.  We see seniors (and others) who continue to place trust in swindlers because con artists are good at what they do. We see forged signatures, shady documentation, account statements printed off a home computer, and account figures that just don’t add up. And we fight for the financial abuse victim to recover money where possible. Contacting law enforcement and regulators are additional important resources, and your attorney can advise you on your best options for loss recovery.

As a securities attorney, I represent investors nationwide who have lost money due to the conduct of a financial professional or a defective investment product. I also represent parties in trust and estate disputes where a fiduciary has breached their duties and money is recoverable to the estate, trust, or beneficiary.

The Investor Defenders at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP help investors get their money back from brokerage fraud, fraudulent investments, elder financial abuse, and other situations. Our specialized investment litigation practice combines familiarity with complex financial modeling, experience with specialized FINRA arbitration rules and securities laws, and empathy for our clients whose financial losses have become personal.

If you have concerns about how your money is being handled by your financial professional, or concerns that you or a loved one might be the victim of financial exploitation, call me at 1-800-647-8130. Consultations are free, and confidential.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP focuses on all stages of corporate and securities law issues, securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, fiduciary litigation in trust and estate disputes, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes.

Investor Alert – Cryptocurrency Stock Scams

FINRA recently released an Investor Alert on cryptocurrency scams. Investors should be wary of jumping into this “hot,” volatile sector, and do their research before handing over their money to a potential fraudster, or for a risky investment that they don’t understand.

In the last quarter, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ripple have received a fresh burst of press attention. This includes reporting on massive price swings up and down, and stories of overnight millionaires. According to the media, a Welsh man who spilled lemonade on his laptop in 2013 and absentmindedly threw the hard drive away now wants to mine the local dump for the hard drive. Why? It contained the key to access his lost Bitcoin fortune said to be worth $100 million — but only if he finds it and if the drive is still operational.  It’s a good metaphor for Wild West, gold rush atmosphere of the whole cryptocurrency hype.

With this Investor Alert, and other recent warnings, FINRA points out that:

According to a December 11, 2017, public statement from SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, the number of such investments registered with the SEC is ZERO. “Investors should understand that to date no initial coin offerings have been registered with the SEC. The SEC also has not to date approved for listing and trading any exchange-traded products (such as ETFs) holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies.”

As a securities attorney, I represent investors nationwide who have lost money due to the conduct of a financial professional or a defective investment product.

The Investor Defenders at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP help investors get their money back from brokerage fraud, fraudulent investments, elder financial abuse, and other situations.  Our specialized investment litigation practice combines familiarity with complex financial modeling, experience with specialized FINRA arbitration rules and securities laws, and empathy for our clients whose financial losses have become personal.

If you have concerns about how your money is being handled by your financial professional, or if your broker has stopped returning your calls, contact me. Consultations are free and confidential. Call 1-800-647-8130 now.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor focuses on all stages of corporate and securities law issues, securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, fiduciary litigation in trust and estate disputes, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice also includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes.