Scams, Scams and More Scams!

Financial frauds and scams may not be a nice topic to close on before Christmas. But it’s an important one. I think even more so than in past years, I’ve talked to many investors this past year who have lost money – sometimes large amounts – in offshore investment scams of one type or another. They and their families won’t be having a great Christmas. So I think it’s an important topic.

It’s certainly not that offshore is full of scammers or even risky. Scammers are everywhere. But offshore investors often make an easy target. Forewarned you can go out and make money offshore without worrying about such things. That is why it’s important you read this article if you want to avoid forex scams, ponzi schemes and the like.

Back in the summer I was invited by a rather mysterious company to a ‘forex luncheon’ in a building in Panama City (Ocean Business Plaza to be precise). I thought it a little odd, since I have nothing to do with forex, but in the spirit of investigative journalism, I went along…

Over ordered-in sushi, which was rather good by the way, the host proceeded to make a presentation about dodgy-sounding hedge funds, roll over programs and a lot of other stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with forex.

I was not the only financial professional there – and whilst everybody was very polite it was clear that nobody in the room was taking the presenter seriously. Some people simply got up and walked out after finishing their sushi. Why they invited me I have no idea, since surely I have a certain reputation as a scam investigator by now and we have an article on our site warning against exactly this kind of scam: Due Diligence for Offshore high Yield Investment Programs. This particular scheme predictably went down a few months later.

During 2009 some of the opaque offshore investment schemes that have collapsed include:

  • Hatfield Oak International
  • Venture Resource Group (VRG)
  • GCI
  • Finanzas Forex
  • Global Prosperity Plan
  • and several Swedish Credit Unions

Sweden, while a very stable and reputable country, has spurned a minor industry in scams with its credit union legislation. I’ve come across various Swedish Credit Unions over the years and not one has been legitimate.

There are doubtless many others of which I am not even aware. But they all share the same characteristics: above average (unrealistic) rates of return offered, not marketed through conventional channels, based offshore and relying on secrecy to attract clients… and if pushed, they claim that they achieve their returns using forex trading.

Forex trading is extremely high risk. If you have a good, honest broker, you can either make or lose a lot of money. The problem is that few people really understand forex trading so it is an easy play for scammers. There are mysterious entities like CLS Bank and the DTCC that I have written about previously that really do settle multiple trillions of dollars per day in transactions.

Obviously, if you have a dishonest broker, you get the potential downside without the potential upside. Though in reality, the vast majorioty of these scams are classic ponzi schemes that have absolutely nothing to do with forex.

Over the years, clients of Q Wealth have lost millions to scammers of this type. I know, because I’ve seen the proof. Unfortunately these people came to us after they had problems getting their money out.

Others have been smart enough to come to us before putting their money into such schemes, and we can honestly claim to have saved those people millions over the years too. For those who don’t know, one of the benefits of Q Wealth membership is that you can contact us any time for impartial, informal advice on any investment you are thinking of participating in. That alone could be worth thousands of times the cost of membership to you, so I know some members see their $87 annual subscription as a kind of insurance policy.

Doubtless in 2010 we will continue to see lots of similar schemes. Offshore is not full of scammers. If you follow the advice here and in our free weekly e-letter Q Bytes you can easily reach the best reputable offshore banks and offshore brokerage houses. Although we don’t get into investment advice as a business, when we see something good from a reputable source, we do let our members know – recently we’ve been recommending resource and gold mining stocks for example.

What are the trends in scams? What do I expect to see in 2010? The classic ponzi will always be around, because there are always new marks who will fall for it. Probably the forex tag will continue to be applied to these scams.

However, there are some new emerging trends that I have seen in recent months. One is forestry investments – high yields guaranteed from the Brazilian rain forest or from noni or teak plantations in Panama. Following the Copenhagen summit, expect to see more scams revolving around carbon credit trading. And following the surge in gold prices, I am already seeing ads online from penny stock pushers (boiler room penny stock scam operations) who are literally touting the latest ‘undiscovered’ gold mine!

We will also continue to see fraud attempts surrounding documentary credits. Letters of credit and bank guarantees are legitimate instruments used in international trade. But serious international traders have never heard of things like prime bank guarantees, roll-over programs, bank debentures, proof of funds leasing, standby letters, seasoned notes or anything of that nature. Also look out for anything that describes itself as a ‘HYIP.’

So don’t be scammed in 2010. Avoid anything mentioned above like the plague – and if you’re a Q Wealth member who is not sure about something, just write me or Richard and you will get an individual reply in due course. Final piece of advice: if you haven’t yet read our free five part course ‘Secrets of the Super Rich’ you should do so. It is without obligation, and did I mention it’s free? Just enter your e-mail address in the sign-up box above to receive yours.

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