A Ponzi scheme is a form of investment fraud in which the scheme’s operator pays returns on purported investments to the current “investors” using money collected from new “investors.” Because such a scheme requires a steady and near constant flow of new incoming money to survive, Ponzi schemes are doomed to eventual failure, or immediate failure if a sufficient number of investors demand to cash out.
Ponzi schemes continue to snare unsuspecting investors, as the Frankowski Firm has blogged about on numerous occasions. The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued guidance regarding Ponzi Scheme “Red Flags,” offering investors the following warning signs of Ponzi scheme characteristics:
- High returns with little or no risk. Every investment carries some degree of risk, and investments yielding higher returns typically involve more risk. Be highly suspicious of any “guaranteed” investment opportunity.
- Overly consistent returns. Investments tend to go up and down over time. Be skeptical about an investment that regularly generates positive returns regardless of overall market conditions.
- Unregistered investments. Ponzi schemes typically involve investments that are not registered with the SEC or with state regulators. Registration is important because it provides investors with access to information about the company’s management, products, services, and finances.
- Unlicensed sellers. Federal and state securities laws require investment professionals and firms to be licensed or registered. Most Ponzi schemes involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms.
- Secretive, complex strategies. Avoid investments if you don’t understand them or can’t get complete information about them.
- Issues with paperwork. Account statement errors may be a sign that funds are not being invested as promised.
- Difficulty receiving payments. Be suspicious if you don’t receive a payment or have difficulty cashing out. Ponzi scheme promoters sometimes try to prevent participants from cashing out by offering even higher returns for staying put.
If you or someone you know lost money as a result of a Ponzi scheme, or if you suspect you may have been placed in a Ponzi scheme investment similar to the characteristics above, please call the Frankowski Firm at 888.741.7503 or fill out this contact form.