Over the past couple of years South African investors have had their fair share of dodgy investment scams disguised as unique investment opportunities. Recently, someone posted on the community under the talk section, asking for clarity on what seemed like advice on a cryptocurrency scheme('Financial advice and bitcoin trading'). It made me think about the case involving one Steve Twain and the ‘$50-million cryptocurrency scam’ that left some South African investors in financial disarray. In Australia, cryptocurrencies have become the second most common investment scam. Not to say there's anything inherently wrong with crytocurrencies - however, they're fast becoming an easy vehicle for scammers to take advantage of people simply because they, much like forex, remain incredibly difficult to understand for the man on the street.
Whether we're talking equity, forex or bitcoin scams, when it comes to trading or investing schemes or platforms, be sure to look out the following signs:
High returns in a short period: Trading scams usually come with the promise of overnight riches.
Little or no risk is mentioned: Any broker you speak to will be sure to highlight risk when it comes to investing. When returns are guaranteed, you should immediately assume that something’s fishy.
Unconfirmed figures and graphs: It’s not uncommon for people to create performance charts to suit their narrative. This is easy for them to get away with when their target is uninformed. Always try to verify chart and figures.
Look for accreditation or registration with the Financial Services Board (FSB): If there’s a product offering of some sort, then usually there’s a governing body that companies have to be registered with. Always check this. Granted, this may be difficult for thosw wanting to invest in cryptocurrencies to do, since most regulatory bodies haven’t quite settled on how to regulate cryptos. That said, you should still do your due diligence – look at platform reviews. You’ll find plenty reviews on platforms with a quick Google search. And pay attention to all the negative reviews. Be vigilant when it comes to putting your money in someone else’s hands, particularly if they’re not a regulated deposit taking institution. If something is off, let the South African Reserve Bank know by going to resbank.co.za or you can call the FSB’s Fraud and Ethics Hotline on 0800 313 626.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is: This is the golden rule. If you are guaranteed high returns in a very short period of time, you should be very sceptical.
While the FSB can’t regulate sites domiciled overseas or keep tabs on each and every single scam out there, bringing such cases to their attention can help them spread awareness. The internet has made it very easy for people anywhere in the world to run elaborate schemes and by-pass regulators. After all, the FSB and Reserve Bank can’t regulate which sites South African consumers choose to visit.
The most that you as an investor can do, is arm yourself with as much information as possible.
Want to learn how to avoid forex scams? Check out the podcasts below: