The Alberta Securities Commission is reminding investors to do their research before investing with anyone.
After a large Ponzi scheme was busted in St. Albert in 2013, the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) said that many of the tactics used by the fraudster are common devices used by scam artists.
In January, Wade Robert Closson of St. Albert, pleaded guilty to 55 counts of fraud over $5,000 in relation to a Ponzi scheme he ran from 2006 until 2013.
Many victims of the fraud spoke out and said the reason they felt comfortable investing in Closson’s scam is because their friends and family had already invested with Closson and seen positive results.
Nicole Tuncay, Senior Advisor of Investor Education with the Alberta Securities Commission said that using friends and family to recruit investors for a scam, known as affinity fraud, is a common tactic used by fraudsters.
“Someone you know could be involved in a scam. They may or may not know they are involved in it and then they recommend it to someone that they know to invest,” Tuncay said. “They invest based on the trust they have in the other person and they don’t bother to do any of their own research.”
Tuncay said that this tactic is commonly used because often investors find out about investments through their family, friends and social groups.
Closson offered many of his investors high rates of return, which Tuncay said is a red flag when it comes to investing. Closson offered promissory notes to many of his investors for anywhere from 16 per cent to 24 per cent.
Tuncay said to watch out for promises of high returns on investments and investments with no risk. She said that every investment involves a risk and generally the higher the risk, the higher the potential return of an investment.
“If someone is offering you more than the typical bank return on investment that is typically a red flag. You need to think twice about that,” Tuncay said.
Tax free investments are also a red flag to look out for while investing money.
“You can delay taxes but you can’t avoid them. We all know that. It’s unfortunately a part of life,” Tuncay said.
The ASC also recommends to not send money out of the country because it makes it much harder to get the money back if it is a scam.
“It is hard, if not impossible to get your money back,” Tuncay said.
The ASC said that in the last three years they had received 351 complaints. Hilary McMeekin, communications manager at the ASC said that not all complaints lead to investigations or formal enforcement actions and not all of the complaints were about investment scams.
Tuncay said that the number of investment scams that happen annually are typically hard to track because they go significantly under-reported.
“It’s a personal crime so we believe that people are embarrassed to report. Sometimes they don’t even know that it is a scam and they think that it is just a bad business deal,” Tuncay said.
According to the ASC , seniors are the most at risk when it comes to falling victim to fraudsters and scam artists. Tuncay said that this is typically because they have large amounts of money saved and scam artists tend to prey on that demographic but she said that everyone is vulnerable to scam artists.
“Everyone is vulnerable to a scam and most people don’t realize that. A lot of people think that they are smarter and that they would never fall for them. The truth is that scam artists are very good at their job and their job is to take your money.
The best way to avoid being scammed is to do research on the investors before investing any money. Tuncay said that doing a simple google search with the investor’s name, followed by “fraud” or “scam” may bring up any previous issues with clients.
The Alberta Securities Commission said that the company or individual trying to sell securities needs to be registered with the ASC and any potential investors can check the website to see the status of the individual trying to sell the securities. The ASC also recommend searching the investor’s name on the ASC website to see any action taken by the ASC on the individual.
Tuncay said that it is important to trust your gut and to not make any investment decisions on the spot.
“If you are an individual investor take the time to do the research to make sure it is the right investment for you and that it is an actual true investment and not a scam or a scheme,” McMeekin said.
For more information about smart investing you can visit the ASC webstie at www.albertasecurities.com
Members of the public can also call the public inquiries hotline at 1-877-355-4488.
Closson will appear in court for sentencing on April 18. The sentencing is anticipated to take the entire day as more than 20 victims are likely to submit victim impact statements.
While Closson waits for sentencing he was released on Jan. 18 with a $500 no cash deposit and was forced to surrender his passport.