Whenever the stock market takes a hit, unscrupulous individuals will try to find a way to use the misfortune of worried investors to make a quick profit. In light of this year’s problems on Wall Street, it’s no surprise that old scams are coming back, and like all of the classic scams, this one is based on the oldest premise there is: make a lot of money, really fast, with no work.
High yield investment fraud is most commonly found on the Internet, where it’s much easier to put together a website that appears trustworthy and professional than it is to create the same appearance in person. Such sites claim to provide amazing returns, sometimes as much as 40 or 50% per month, and are supported by dubious charts and testimonials from people who may not actually exist. Between a quality website, impressive charts, and some meaningless investment buzzwords describing a “magic pill” of an investing philosophy, unwary consumers can be easily fooled into forking over a chunk of their savings to an investment broker who is not licensed by the SEC and makes claims the SEC would call illegal.
The clearest warning signs of these scams are easy to remember, just like avoiding them should be simple to do: don’t trust anyone who offers to-good-to-be-true returns, dismiss cutting-edge investment opportunities if they come from anyone but an investment professional with whom you’ve worked before, and ignore any evidence of success that can’t be verified by an outside party.
Big returns are appealing. You want to retire someday, send your kids to college, or start a business to get away from the morning commute, and the more money your investments make, the quicker you can do so. But it’s important to trust the process. Return on investment is tied to the risk involved in spending money on that investment. The stock market offers better returns than treasury notes because it’s far riskier to bet on United Airlines than on the United States. High-yield investment scams are successful because we want to believe that someone can beat the market so well and that we can have returns that are better than the stock market with risks that are lower than treasury bonds. It just doesn’t happen that way.
At Destinations Credit Union, we believe we’ve created a nice sweet spot with our savings products. No matter what your preferences are, we can fit into your investment portfolio. In times that the market does well, the money you have with us will keep you moving towards retirement, but when the market slows down, you don’t have to worry about losing your financial security because the money your entrust us with is safe.
To put it another way, the U.S. economy has traditionally done three things very well: lower prices, create jobs, and price risk. The last recession was caused by doing a poor job of pricing risk, and that hurt our ability to do the other two. But that’s exactly the point. As an economy, we are so good at pricing risk that when we screw it up, it’s an enormous, world-altering event. If you find someone who can price risk so much differently than every other investment professional in the world, you need to also be ready to bet that the economy is going to take a radical shift in an entirely new direction, because that’s what happens when we do a bad job pricing risk.