Category Archives: Fraud

At what age are you too old to manage your money?

I was fascinated to read an article with the above title that was published recently.  It was accompanied by a picture of an elderly couple and their caregiver walking with canes.

The article reflects many of our own observations.  We have been managing money for people for over thirty years.  During that time we have seen the effect of age and ill health on the people we work with.

Here’s the good news:

“Most people who don’t suffer from cognitive impairment can continue managing their money in their 70s and 80s, according to a report just published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR). But of course some older Americans, and especially financial novices who take over money management after the death of a spouse, will need help …”

Here’s the bad news:

As we get older our ability to process information slows down.  As a result, the elderly are more likely to be defrauded or abused by financial scams.  They may not open their mail regularly, have problems paying bills and fail to read and understand their financial statements and reports.

If you’ve never made investment decisions, paid the bills, balanced the family checkbook or reviewed the investment accounts you are especially vulnerable.  This if often true of older couples in which the wife managed the household and the husband managed the family finances.

As we get older, there are a few basic things that we should do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

  1. Have a spending plan for your retirement years.
  2. Make sure that your spouse and your financial advisor knows about the plan and knows where your accounts are so that they can be monitored for fraud or abuse.
  3. At some point you or your spouse should agree to transfer your responsibility for managing your investments, and make sure that both members of a couple should know how to run the household finances.

For guidance on these issues, we suggest ordering a copy of BEFORE I GO and BEFORE I GO WORKBOOK.

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Ex-NFL player, Mega Millions winner press $7.8M claims against Morgan Stanley

What do sports super-stars and lottery winners have in common?  Both are in financial danger.

That’s a strange thing to say about people who are often multi-millionaires.

The problem is that neither the talented athlete nor the lottery winner is usually any good at managing money.  That’s a harsh judgment to make but too many star athletes and lottery winners end up broke.  They end up broke for many of the same reasons:

  • They believe that the financial windfall they have received is inexhaustible.
  • They attract too many groupies and hangers-on who are after their money.
  • They spend the money they have received instead of investing it for their old age.
  • The money they do invest is often lost because of poor, or dishonest, advice.

From Financial Planning magazine:

Former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel and Mega Millions lottery winner James Groves are jointly seeking $7.8 million in damages against Morgan Stanley related to investment recommendations made by a now-barred broker, according to regulatory filings….

Samuel and Groves filed their claims in FINRA arbitration in July, according to a copy of Parthemer’s CRD. From 2003 to 2013, Samuel played for several NFL teams, including the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Groves won $168 million in the Mega Millions lottery in 2009.

In this case, Asante Samuel was persuaded to buy a night club, probably hoping to capitalize on his fame as a football player.  It’s fairly common for professional athletes to open restaurants or night clubs.  The problem is that even for professional restauranteurs, the failure rate is shockingly high, and athletes don’t have the training or time to run these businesses.

The story of many lottery winners is one example of ruined lives after another.   Bud Post’s story is not unusual.

When William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in a 1988 lottery, one of the first things he did was try to please his family, according to this Bankrate article.

Unfortunately, his kin was of the unfriendly sort. Post’s brother hired a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit some money. Other family members persuaded him to invest in two businesses that ultimately failed. Post’s ex-girlfriend sued him for some of the winnings. Post himself was thrown in jail for firing a gun at a bill collector.

Over time, Post accumulated so much debt that he had to declare bankruptcy. He now relies on Social Security for income. “Lotteries don’t mean (anything) to me,” he is quoted as saying—after he lost all his money.

Is there no hope for professional athletes and lottery winners?  Yes, but it requires them to know their limitations, which may include hiring professional help before they begin spending their new-found wealth.

If you’re a sports star or lottery winner who would like to retire rich, and you want to have someone to talk to about the way you can fend off the vultures that your wealth and fame attract, contact us.  You don’t want to spend your time in court trying to get back what you lost.

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How QB Mark Sanchez was sacked by a financial adviser

NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez was allegedly cheated out of about $33 million by Ash Narayan, who worked for RGT Capital Management for nearly 20 years. Image: Associated Press

This article from Financial Planning caught my eye:

NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez and major league baseball pitchers Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt were allegedly cheated out of about $33 million by Ash Narayan, who worked for RGT Capital Management for nearly 20 years, the SEC has charged.

Narayan “secretly siphon[ed] millions of dollars from accounts he managed for professional athletes,” the SEC alleged.

When you hire someone to manage your money you trust that they will serve you honestly and ethically.  Unfortunately, that trust is sometimes betrayed, which gives the financial services industry a black eye.

One of the things that we can pass along to our friends and clients are lessons learned.  In this particular case, Narayan put a lot of his clients’ money into a struggling internet firm in which he had a financial stake.  That is a huge conflict of interest and should be a red flag for anyone who hires a financial advisor.

Sanchez hired Narayan partly because they attended the same church.  We have seen several instances where people entrusted their money with advisors who were part of the church, the club or another affinity group without checking further.  When hiring an advisor you cannot assume that people close to you have your best interest at heart.  Even family members will take advantage of other members of the family.

If you want a brochure that tells you how to choose a financial advisor, contact us.  We are fiduciaries.

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Avoiding Tax Scams

Financial Advisor magazine ran an excellent article about a scam that is being run by people pretending to be IRS agents. One of these scams defrauded more than 5,000 people out of more than $25 million.  Here’s how one scam works:

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

Here’s what you must know: the IRS never solicits payments by phone or e-mail.  If they need information they will always write a letter first.  Do not respond to e-mails that appear to be from the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

There are a number of other frauds that involve taxes.  A thief may steal your identity and fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.  There are several ways to avoid this happening to you.  First, protect your identity by shredding all documents that contain personal information.  Second file early and electronically; electronic filing eliminates paper documents with sensitive information will not get stolen in the mail.

Beware of tax preparer fraud.  It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. This year, the IRS wants to remind all taxpayers that they should use only preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs).

Beware of “Free Money” from the IRS or scams involving social security.

Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. These schemes promise refunds to people who have little or no income and normally don’t have a tax filing requirement – and are also often spread by word of mouth as unsuspecting and well-intentioned people tell their friends and relatives.

 

We protect your identity and work hard to safeguard sensitive financial information.  It’s why we provide you with a password protected Lock Box when we send information such as performance reports to you electronically.

For more information, please contact us.

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Use caution when selecting an investment advisor

It’s important to know that your investment advisor has your best interests at heart.  As Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) we are “fiduciaries.”  That means that we put our clients’ interests first, ahead of our own.   One of the great things about being an independent RIA is that we work directly and only for our clients instead of being on the payroll of some large investment firm.  Our clients are our employers, not a large bank or some corporate giant with headquarters on Wall Street.

An article published in a recent issue of Financial Planning was entitled  Trusting Advisors Just got Harder.  

According to the author:

A new working paper by business school professors at the University of Chicago and University of Minnesota found that 7% of financial advisors have been disciplined for misconduct that ranges from putting clients in unsuitable investments to trading on client accounts without permission.

It’s a touchy subject in this industry.  Many of the issues are related to the sale of high-commission products including annuities and other insurance products.  According to the professors’ research, unfortunately, the offenders often move on to other firms and are likely to become repeat offenders.  Before working with an advisor it is always a good idea to do a BrokerCheck with FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency) to see if he or she has a blemished record.

The study actually provides a list of the 10 advisory firms with the highest misconduct rates.  Surprisingly, some of the biggest firms in the industry have a large number of advisors with misconduct on their records.

Most of the people at these firms are honest and do look out for their clients’ best interest. But it does pay to be careful out there and at least do some background research, like BrokerCheck.  As Reagan once said “trust but verify.”

For more information, contact us.

 

New Scam Tricks Advisors Into Giving Up Clients’ Money

Financial fraud has always been a problem, but the Internet has enabled entirely new ways of stealing money. We recently received an alert about a new scheme to defraud advisors and their clients.

The scam begins with an email to an advisor that includes a bogus invoice. The email appears to come from a client, and it includes a request to send money directly to the business listed on the invoice. The invoice might appear to be for purchases such as antiques or art, or for such things as attorney fees or legal settlements. The advisor sends the money, and the fraud is complete.

The payee is often in a foreign country or at an overseas bank. This makes it nearly impossible to catch the thieves or reclaim the money. The FBI estimates that more than 2,000 victims lost more than $214 million to this scam between October 2013 and December 2015.

My firm has a policy of not sending clients’ money to third parties based on email communication alone. But we go beyond simply confirming client requests by phone. It is our policy to get to know our clients personally. We know if they have a pattern of sending money to third parties. In all cases, we require a written letter of authorization as well as verbal confirmation from the client before any money is sent out.

The recent news that personal information about more than 20 million government employees, contractors and others was stolen highlights the importance of the security of your financial information. It also makes dealing with a financial firm where you are an individual, not a number, increasingly important.

NOTE: We recently submitted this article to NerdWallet who posted it on their Advisor Voices board.

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