Miller: Beware investment scammers

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My name is Bob, and I am an investaholic. (“Hi, Bob”).

OK, now that formalities are out of the way, I’d like to share something I hope you will find helpful. If there is one subject besides sex and dieting that billions of dollars are regularly spent upon by information providers, it’s money.

Think about it: 24 hours a day TV business channels, daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines and the internet  ̶  there is no lack for things to write and talk about literally by the minute, because everything that happens every minute potentially affects the decisions we make with our money.

But along with all that ongoing information includes scammers. I do not include in that category people who legitimately have beliefs that may go against mainstream thinking and share their opinions in a genuine effort to save us from what they feel may be significant events that will affect us negatively.

I am talking about those who use scare tactics or promise substantial returns only to make money for themselves by selling subscriptions, juicing their own investments, etc. Unfortunately, they are a constant presence AND they know how to make us react with action that benefits them.

Throughout my career of 26 years and literally centuries prior, their willingness to take advantage of our emotional human nature has resulted in an unfair transfer of wealth, from the moral to the immoral. There are many names for them, and we find them in many industries, but the industry of investments/money is certainly a top pick. I am sure most of us remember when they asked the bank robber why he robbed the bank his sensible answer was, “because that’s where the money is.”

Very recently, a scammer with a history of scamming and even convicted of scamming, has managed to again create an apocalyptic scenario that is currently becoming a mainstream topic. I personally saw and listened to a link to his latest titillation via a friend’s post on facebook. The video link went on for an hour, promising his investment solutions to the economic devastation every 10 minutes or so, promising he would state them clearly in “just another minute,” only to end the video with an “opportunity” to subscribe to his research that would include his investment solutions that would have you making money when everyone else would be losing their fortunes. Insight: If they lie about promises in their video, that’s a clue that you may not want to spend any money OR time listening to more. Say what you’ll do and do what you say. Pretty basic.

I bring this up for a couple reasons. One, you may hear the latest mainstream scam from some of your friends. Some may be convinced it is truth. Some may just be fishing for your opinion. Nobody should ever flatly discount any opinion because there is always that snowball-in-Jamaica chance (no offense to Jamaica) it might be right.

Here is the second point of my sharing this information with you. We can spend a lot of time and a lot of years with our clients, understanding their needs and desires financially, carefully navigating their course through an ever changing market of investment returns, interest rate moves, life changes, economic changes, and more, and it just takes one misled action to mess the whole thing up.

Like a minefield, those opportunities to mess up are all around us and are literally in our client’s face, sometimes as often as daily. They count on us to separate truth from fiction. Being able to do that requires care and time – time doing the digging, the research, and gaining the knowledge that can transform knee-jerk human emotion to confident, well thought-out decision making, which adds measurable value for our clients.

How to gain knowledge reminds me of something I heard from one of my economics professors during my junior year in college (Indiana University – that’s for you, Kati!) that made a positive difference to me. My professor said something like this: “If you learn nothing else from college I hope you learned ‘how to learn.’ To learn, you must have an attitude of skepticism to everything you have been taught, to everything you have ‘learned.’ You must challenge the status quo; you must search for different ways of thinking and new paths that may render the old ways no longer relevant. By doing so you will confirm the truths, dispel the false, and re-write these textbooks for future generations who will hopefully re-write your text book one day. That is learning!”

As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. May you all embrace a healthy degree of skepticism. We’re here to help!

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About the Author
Bob is a Peoria native, a graduate of Peoria Richwoods with a BA in Economics from Indiana University in 1987. He became series 7 registered in 1988, then received his Principals registration (series 24) in 1995 with LPL Financial, the nation's largest independent broker dealer*. He remains an LPL Registered Principal and is also president of Investment Strategists at Better Banks. Bob believes in community service, supports qualified charitable causes and is a Paul Harris Fellow Rotarian. His personal mission is "To make a positive impact on every person I come in contact with." *As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2013, based on total revenue.