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Delete, avoid and hang up when it comes to spring scams

By Susan Tompor

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

Published: Monday, April 21 2014 7:16 p.m. MDT

But ultimately, they lost sizable savings when they ended up as victims of a Ponzi scheme in which their so-called friend, a former Farmington Hills, Mich., investment adviser, swindled about $4.1 million from mostly elderly clients. Keith Epstein was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2011. Instead of investing the retirement savings of clients, prosecutors charged that Epstein gambled away the money at Detroit casinos and lavished cash and gifts on strippers.

One way for con artists to get someone to trust them, of course, is to become part of everyday life. They might meet potential victims at church or through a neighborhood group.

One man who claimed to be an excellent trader but who is not licensed to invest other people’s money became part of a cigar club in Oakland County to build buzz and find clients, according to FBI agent Rebekah Wiles. An investigation is ongoing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Reynolds said consumers need to contact their own professionals to review documents if they’re looking at making a major investment. Then they need to listen to their CPAs or own attorneys and if the outside experts spot trouble, do not invest. Do not invest money anyway, even in spite of warning signs, because of promised big returns.

“Please know what you’re signing,” Reynolds said.

WATCH OUT FOR THESE SCAMS

— ID thieves use all sorts of tricks, such as pretending to offer a job or a loan and then asking for banking information or other personal information before one can “qualify.”

— Do not forget the door-to-door scams. Some scammers are claiming to be with the government and going door to door to sell fake medical discount plans. See http:// www.aarp.org/fightfraud.

— Other ways to avoid senior fraud: Never sign a blank insurance claim form. The FBI has warned that con artists read obituaries and call later or attend funeral services to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower. The scam: Someone claims the deceased owed him or her money and tries to settle a fake debt. See http:// www.ncoa.org for tips from the National Council on Aging. Or see http:// www.stopfraud.gov.

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press research. Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at stompor@freepress.com. ©2014 Detroit Free Press Visit Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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