Protecting yourself against financial fraud.

Bernie Madoff isn’t the only fraudster preying on the unwary. There are a number of scam artists in the financial services business.

There’s the case of Malcolm Segal. According to the SEC:

Segal allegedly promised his clients 12% returns on CDs bought through Aegis. But he’s alleged in some cases to have either bought the CDs but redeemed them early or not bought them at all. Citing the SEC, the Philadelphia Business Journal says he raised about $15.5 million from at least 50 investors in this fashion.

It puzzles me how people can actually fall for something like this. Perhaps I have been in the investment business so long that I have seen too many of the ways people are fleeced out of their money.

How do you protect yourself against financial fraud? The first thing to do is to be suspicious of offers that are too good to be true. No actual, legitimate bank is offering 12% CDs in a 1% interest rate environment.

Another thing to do is to make sure that your assets are held in custody be a third party; a custodian like Charles Schwab, Fidelity or a major bank trust department.  The reason that Madoff was able to fool his clients for so many years is that he printed his own statements. These statements “showed” that he was trading for them and that they were making money. In reality, he was not trading and their account statements were fabrications.

At Korving & Company we use Schwab as our custodian and our clients receive trade confirmations and statements from directly from Schwab. We encourage our clients to view their accounts on-line at Schwab.

We had an experience with a client who had an account with another advisor. He suddenly dropped his custodian and began producing his own account statements. That’s a wake-up call. They asked us to look at their statements and when we noticed that their end-of-year tax reports did not include taxable income from CDs that he claimed to have bought for them, we knew he was defrauding them.

If you have any concerns about your financial advisor, feel free to contact us for a second opinion.

 

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