Steve Kerby

Steve Kerby

Steve Kerby picture

 Scams are theft; theft is stealing

A recent alert from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warns of scams related to extremely high-interest rates offered on High Yield Certificates of Deposit (CDS).

Here is their link to scams: http://www.finra.org/Investors/ProtectYourself/InvestorAlerts/FraudsAndScams/

Here is another link: http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2014/05/29/finra-warns-on-fake-high-interest-cds?

Consumers need to be on guard when something is too good to be true; the simple answer is this “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Advice for protecting yourself against scams would be on guard against pitches that sound like this:

  • significantly higher than average interest rates
  • promotions that claim are only available to specific customers.
  • offers from companies you don’t recognize
  • promotional offers from well-known companies with a non.com address for responding
  • offers that set a short time limit for doing business

The alert advises investors who believe they have been victims of a CD scam to immediately contact their financial institution to report a loss or theft of funds through an electronic funds transfer.

Unfortunately, I am too aware of the danger of bogus offers and scams that take advantage of the weakest.

Here is a true story about a (current) client of mine. Dave and Doris (not real names) were schoolteachers in Tacoma, Washington. Doris had been ill, and they decided to take early retirement to enjoy their left time. The problem is they didn’t quite have enough money; they needed it to grow just a little bit more.

A friend of theirs introduced them to a father and son swindler team in Tacoma, James, and Dick Edwards (real). The scam was simple; high yield “prime” notes offering very high-interest rates, Dave and Doris, along with 1,300 others bit. They lost a total of $97.3 million.

Dave now describes his life as “torturous,” and he is broke. He and Doris lost a total of $175,000, the money needed for retirement, the funds required for sustaining life.

We can all argue that greed stepped in and tapped Dave and Doris on the shoulder; after all, they decided to invest with the swindlers. But the results in human tragedy overshadow what happened. Doris has passed away, and Dave is left with happy and sad memories.

The Edwards? They received 27 years each and are serving their time in San Quinten prison. The irony of all this for me is a little broader. My daughter lives in San Rafael, about 3 miles from San Quinten. When I visit her, I can see the prison from the freeway, and every time I glance over, I think of the swindlers (Edwards) and how sad Dave is now.

Want to know what hooked Dave, Doris, and the other 1,300 investors?

The hook was the interest – 4 percent per month –and the bait was a mixture of friendship, religion, fanciful tales of unnamed foreign banks, and the kind of whispered secrets that bound investors together into something resembling a private club.

It was a Ponzi scheme, a “prime bank note” operation. So the legend went, certain European banks share significant concessions and profits. Only the big boys play.

But the Edwards’s knew somebody, they said. They had a way inside. They were offering the little guy a chance to eat at the grown-ups’ table. This was real money.

I hope the Edwards apply for parole; I will make sure Dave is there to testify at the hearing.

Here is the link regarding the case, trial, and sentencing regarding the Edwards: http://www.fraudlaw.org/Fraud/Fraud%20by%20Type/Ponzi%20and%20Loan%20fraud/RDI/05%2004%2017%20God%20Bless%20RDI.htm

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