We may never forget Madoff’s crimes. Let’s hope we don’t. And yet, investors still fall prey to so-called “mini-Madoffs” every day all over the country. If you keep your eye on the financial press, particularly news from regulators such as the SEC or FINFRA, Ponzi schemes identical in nature and structure — if not scope — to Madoff’s bubble up and burst too often to keep track.
Financial fraudster are getting more creative - and audacious, according to a recent Investor Alert from the FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). FINRA is in charge of keeping an eye on the US Securities Industry. Shockingly, scam artists have recently been using FINRA itself - or its name at least - to separate investors from their money.
Last week, federal prosecutors in North Carolina brought charges against Stephen C. Peters, the latest alleged Ponzi operator to hit the headlines. Peters has been charged with diverting more than $4.4 million of retirement savings from elderly investors. Rather than actually invest their money, Peters used it to remodel a ranch in North Carolina, purchase fine art, build a vacation home in Costa Rica, and buy horses.
In many cases, seniors don’t realize their investment portfolios no longer reflect the risk-tolerances and investment objectives they indicated in their broker-dealer account opening documents. On your account statements, your investor profile may not change. It may still be labeled “Conservative” or “Moderate-risk” while the actual investments or overall allocation of investments you hold are anything but conservative or moderate.