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Pay Attention to These 7 Bitcoin Scams

Bitcoin – the possible Pandora’s Box of the currency world – has never been short of controversy. Whether it be aiding the black market or scamming users out of millions, bitcoin is no stranger to the front page.

Still, the jury is out on the legality and usefulness of bitcoin – leaving it in a proverbial grey area. Bitcoin’s price has fluctuated throughout its history, falling and rising, currently hovering near $10,000. Perhaps you’ve found bitcoin while it looks to be on the rebound and find yourself interested in it as an investment.

However, there have been several legitimate bitcoin scams that have become infamous, and you need to know about them – but, what are the top 7 bitcoin scams? And how can you avoid them?

What Is a Bitcoin Scam?

For most cases, it may be pretty obvious what a scam is – but with bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, things become murkier. Bitcoin itself is an unregulated form of currency that essentially is a mere number that is only given value because of an agreement. It’s basically like a moneybag with a lock on it – the code of which is given to the recipient of the bitcoin (an analogy drawn by Forbes in 2020).

Bitcoin scams have been famously criminal and public in nature. With no bank as a middleman in exchange, things become more complicated; so hackers and con men have had a heyday.

Top 7 Bitcoin Scams

There have been (and undoubtedly will be) nearly countless bitcoin scams, but these frauds make the list of the top 7 worst bitcoin scams to date. Take note.

1. Malware Scams

Malware has long been the hallmark of many online scams. But with cryptocurrency, it poses an increased threat given the nature of the currency in and of itself.

Recently, a tech support site called Bleeping Computer issued a warning about cryptocurrency-targeting malware in hopes of saving customers from sending cryptocoins via transactions, reported Yahoo Finance.

“This type of malware, called CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers, works by monitoring the Windows clipboard for cryptocurrency addresses, and if one is detected, will swap it out with an address that they control,” wrote Lawrence Abrahams, computer forensics and creator of Bleeping Computer.

The malware, CryptoCurrency Clipboard Hijackers (which reportedly manages 2.3 million bitcoin addresses) switches addresses used to transfer cryptocoin with ones the malware controls – thus transferring the coins to the scammers instead. And, according to Asia Times, even MacOS malware has been connected to malware scams involving cryptocurrency investors using trusted sites like Slack and Discord chats – coined “OSX.Dummy.”

2. Fake Bitcoin Exchanges – BitKRX

Surely one of the easiest ways to scam investors is to pose as an affiliate branch of a respectable and legitimate organization. Well, that’s exactly what scammers in the bitcoin field are doing.

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South Korean scam BitKRX presented itself as a place to exchange and trade bitcoin, but was ultimately fraudulent. The fake exchange took on part of the name of the real Korean Exchange (KRX), and scammed people out of their money by posing as a respectable and legitimate cryptocurrency exchange.

BitKRX claimed to be a branch of the KRX, a creation of KOSDAQ, South Korean Futures Exchange, and South Korean Stock Exchange, according to Coin Telegraph.

BitKRX used this faux-affiliation to ensnare people to use their system. The scam was exposed in 2020.

3. Ponzi Scheme – MiningMax

“Ponzi bitcoin scam” has got to be the worst combination of words imaginable for financial gurus. And, the reality is just as bad.

Several organizations have scammed people out of millions with Ponzi schemes using bitcoins, including South Korean website MiningMax. The site, which was not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, promised to provide investors with daily ROI’s in exchange for an original investment and commission from getting others to invest (basically, a Ponzi scheme). Apparently, the site was asking people to invest $3,200 for daily ROI’s over two years, and a $200 referral commission for every personally recruited investor, reports claim.

MiningMax’s domain was privately registered in mid-2020, and had a binary compensation structure. The fraudulent crypto-currency scam was reported by affiliates, resulting in 14 arrests in Korea in December of 2020.

Korea has long been a leader in technological developments – bitcoin is no exception. However, after recent controversy, it seems as though this is changing.

“But a lot of governments are looking at this very carefully,” Yoo Byung-joon, business administration professor at Seoul National University and co-author of the 2020 research paper “Is Bitcoin a Viable E-Business?: Empirical Analysis of the Digital Currency’s Speculative Nature,” told South China Morning Post in January. “Some are even considering putting their currencies on the blockchain system. The biggest challenge facing bitcoin now is the potential for misuse, but that’s true of any new technology.”

4. Fake Bitcoin Scam – My Big Coin

A classic (but no less dubious) scam involving bitcoin and cryptocurrency is simply, well, fake currency. One such arbiter of this faux bitcoin was My Big Coin. Essentially, the site sold fake bitcoin. Plain and simple.

In early 2020, My Big Coin, a cryptocurrency scam that lured investors into sinking an alleged $6 million, was sued by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to a CFTC case filed in late January.

The CFTC case further details that the suit was due to “commodity fraud and misappropriation related to the ongoing solicitation of customers for a virtual currency known as My Big Coin (MBC),” further charging the scam with “misappropriating over $6 million from customers by, among other things, transferring customer funds into personal bank accounts, and using those funds for personal expenses and the purchase of luxury goods.”

Among other things, the site fraudulently claimed that the coin was being actively traded on several platforms, and even mislead investors by claiming it was also partnered with MasterCard, according to the CFTC case.

Those sued included Randall Carter, Mark Gillespie and the My Big Coin Pay, Inc.

5. ICO Scam – Bitcoin Savings and Trust and Centra Tech

Still other scammers have used ICO’s – initial coin offerings – to dupe users out of their money.

Along with the rise in blockchain-backed companies, fake ICOs became popular as a way to back these new companies. However, given the unregulated nature of bitcoin itself, the door has been wide open for fraud.

Most ICO frauds have taken place through getting investors to invest in or through fake ICO websites using faulty wallets, or by posing as real cryptocurrency-based companies.

Notably, $32 million Centra Tech garnered celebrity support (most famously from DJ Khaled), but was exposed for ICO fraud back in April of 2020, according to Fortune. The company was sued for misleading investors and lying about products, among other fraudulent activities.

The famous DJ wrote his support in a caption on Instagram back in 2020.

“I just received my titanium centra debit card. The Centra Card & Centra Wallet app is the ultimate winner in Cryptocurrency debit cards powered by CTR tokens!” Khaled wrote.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission even issued a warning in 2020 about ICO scams and faux investment opportunities, brought on by a slew of celebrities who promoted certain ICOs (like Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to name a few).

“Any celebrity or other individual who promotes a virtual token or coin that is a security must disclose the nature, scope, and amount of compensation received in exchange for the promotion,” the SEC wrote in an Investor Alert in 2020. “A failure to disclose this information is a violation of the anti-touting provisions of the federal securities laws.”

Another example is Bitcoin Savings and Trust, which was fined $40.7 million in 2020 by the SEC for creating fake investments and using a Ponzi scheme to scam investors. According to Coin Telegraph, Trenton Shavers, the organization’s leader, allegedly scammed investors into giving him 720,000 bitcoins promising a 7% weekly interest on investments – which he then used to pay back old investors and even fill his personal bank accounts.

6. Bitcoin Gold Scam – mybtgwallet.com

Nothing catches the eye of the naïve quite like the promise of gold – bitcoin gold, of course.

That is exactly what mybtgwallet.com did to unsuspecting bitcoin investors.

According to CNN, the bitcoin gold (BTG) wallet duped investors out of $3.2 million in 2020 by promising to allow them to claim their bitcoin gold. The website allegedly used links on a legitimate website (Bitcoin Gold) to get investors to share their private keys or seeds with the scam, as this old screenshot from the website shows.

Before the scam was done, the website managers (slash scammers) was able to get their hands on $107,000 worth of bitcoin gold, $72,000 of litecoin, $30,000 of ethereum, and $3 million of bitcoin, according to CNN.

Bitcoin Gold, the site’s wallet used in the scam, began investigating shortly after, but the site remains controversial. Still, firm released a warning to bitcoin investors.

“It’s worth reminding everyone that it will never be truly safe to enter your private key or mnemonic phrase for a pre-existing wallet into any online website,” Bitcoin Gold wrote. “When you want to sweep new coins from a pre-fork wallet address, best practice is the same as after other forks: Send your old coins to a new wallet first, before you expose the private keys of the original wallet. Following this basic rule of private key management greatly reduces your risk of theft.”

7. Pump and Dump Scam

While this type of scam is certainly not relegated to just bitcoin (thank you for the education, “The Wolf of Wall Street”), a pump-and-dump scam is especially dangerous in the internet space.

The basic idea is that investors hype up (or “pump up”) a certain bitcoin – that is usually an alternative coin that is very cheap but high risk – via investor’s websites, blogs, or even Reddit, according to The Daily Dot. Once the scammers pump up a certain bitcoin enough, skyrocketing its value, they cash out and “dump” their bitcoin onto the naïve investors who bought into the bitcoin thinking it was the next big thing.

Bittrex, a popular bitcoin exchange site, released a set of guidelines to avoid bitcoin pump-and-dump scams.

While “stackin’ penny stocks” may sound like an appealing way to earn an extra buck (thanks to its glamorization by Jordan Belfort), messing in bitcoin scams is nothing to smirk at.

How to Avoid Bitcoin Scams

With the inevitable rise of bitcoin in current and coming years, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and be on the lookout for bitcoin scams that could cost you thousands. As more people become interested in Bitcoin, more people are also likely to try and pull off a scam.

There is no one formula to avoiding being scammed, but reading up on the latest bitcoin red flags, keeping information private, and double checking sources before investing in anything are good standard procedures that may help save you from being duped. Cryptocurrency can be a confusing topic even for the experienced Bitcoin enthusiast, so the more you read up on the world of Bitcoin, the more prepared you can be. After all, knowledge is power.

Robinhood Review

Robinhood’s fees no longer set it apart

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  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $0

Robinhood’s claim to fame is that they do not charge commissions for stock, options, or cryptocurrency trading. Due to industry-wide changes, however, they’re no longer the only free game in town. The firm’s target customer base is young people new to investing, who are drawn to the app by advertising that leans heavily on words such as “free” and “democratization.” By and large, this tactic has succeeded, drawing in 10 million customers. But what happens to them when they outgrow Robinhood’s meager research capabilities or get frustrated by outages during market surges?

Important

During the sharp market decline, heightened volatility, and trading activity surges that took place in late February and early March 2020, Robinhood experienced extensive outages that affected its users’ ability to access the platform at all, leading to a number of lawsuits. However, Robinhood’s customer agreement, a multi-page document most customers electronically sign without reading, is intended to legally absolve the firm of any responsibility for these outages.

We’ll look at Robinhood and how it stacks up to more established rivals now that its edge in price has all but evaporated.

Key Takeaways

  • Robinhood’s low fees and zero balance requirement to open an account are attractive for new investors.
  • Customers must pay at least $5 per month for Robinhood Gold in order to trade on margin, view market depth data, and access research, such as Morningstar reports on high-volume stocks. Robinhood customers can try the Gold service out for 30 days for free.
  • Robinhood does not publish their trading statistics the way all other brokers do, so it’s hard to compare their payment for order flow statistics to anyone else. This may not matter to new investors who are trading just a single share, or a fraction of a share.

Who Robinhood Is For

Robinhood is best suited for newcomers to investing who want to trade small quantities and require little in terms of research beyond seeing what others are trading. Robinhood’s overall simplicity makes the app and website very easy to use, and charging zero commissions appeals to extremely cost-conscious investors who trade small quantities. That said, the offerings are very light on research and analysis, and there are serious questions about the quality of the trade executions.

Trading costs are very low and cryptocurrency trades can be placed in small quantities

Very simple and easy to use

Customers have instant access to deposited cash

Trades appear to be routed to generate payment for order flow, not best price

Quotes do not stream, and are a bit delayed

There is very little research or resources available

Pros Explained

  • Robinhood allows cryptocurrency trades to be placed in very small quantities. Most other cryptocurrency-friendly platforms require certain minimums in order to trade.
  • Robinhood’s mobile app and the website are extremely easy to use.
  • Robinhood is very efficient at getting your cash into the market. All customers have instant access to deposits and immediate access to funds after closing positions, and your buying power is increased as soon as you initiate a deposit into your account.

Cons Explained

  • There is no commission charged by Robinhood for trades, but the spread we saw for our cryptocurrency transactions was considerably wider than those we saw on other platforms.
  • Though prices update on the Robinhood app and the website, they lag other real-time data providers by several seconds.
  • New investors who are dedicated to improving their trading skills will outgrow the resources provided by Robinhood, especially options traders.

Usability

Robinhood is very easy to navigate and use, but this is related to its overall simplicity. Robinhood’s initial offering was a mobile app, followed by a website launch in Nov. 2020. As a result, Robinhood’s app and the website are similar in look and feel, which makes it easy to invest through either interface. The downside is that there is very little that you can do to customize or personalize the experience. Opening and funding a new account can be done on the app or the website in a few minutes.

The opening screen when you log in is a line chart that shows your portfolio value, but it lacks descriptions on either the X- or Y-axis. You can hover your mouse over the chart, or tap a spot if you’re on your mobile device, to see the time of day for each data point.

An order ticket pops open whenever you are looking at a particular stock, option, or crypto coin. All the asset classes available for your account can be traded on the mobile app as well as the website, and watchlists are identical across platforms. Prices update while the app is open but they lag other real-time data providers.

The mobile apps and website suffered serious outages during market surges of late February and early March 2020. The founders said in a blog post that their systems could not handle the stress of the “unprecedented load” and pledged to beef up their systems. 

Trade Experience

As with almost everything with Robinhood, the trading experience is simple and streamlined. Robinhood deals with a subsection of equities rather than the entirety of the market, but on every quote screen for the stocks and ETFs you can trade on Robinhood, there is a straightforward trade ticket. All the asset classes available for your account can be traded on the mobile app as well as the website, and watchlists are identical across the platforms.

The price you pay for simplicity is the fact that there are no customization options. If you want to enter a limit order, you’ll have to override the market order default in the trade ticket. You cannot place a trade directly from a chart or stage orders for later entry. Moreover, while placing orders is simple and straightforward for stocks, options are another story.

Placing options trades is clunky, complicated, and counterintuitive. Although Robinhood allows options trading, the platform seems geared entirely towards making market orders for assets rather than actually attempting to strategically use options to profit. This perception is reinforced by the fact that pricing refreshes every few seconds, but the actual pricing data lagged behind two other platforms we opened simultaneously by 3–10 seconds. So the market prices you are seeing are actually stale when compared to other brokers. This will not faze anyone looking to buy and hold a stock, but this data lag kills any idea of using Robinhood as a trading platform.

Range of Offerings

Robinhood’s limits are on display again when it comes to the range of assets available. Robinhood allows you to trade cryptocurrencies in the same account that you use for equities and options, which is unique, but it’s missing quite a few asset classes, such as fixed income. Investors using Robinhood can invest in the following:

  • Stocks: Long only. No short selling. No OTCBB (penny stocks).
  • Simple and multi-leg options.
  • Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin SV (BSV), Dogecoin (DOGE), Ethereum (ETH), Ethereum Classic (ETC), Litecoin (LTC). Data is additionally available for ten other coins.
  • No mutual funds, fixed income, futures, or futures options.
  • Fractional share investing has been announced but not currently available to all customers.

Order Types

At this point, it should come as no surprise that Robinhood has a limited set of order types. You can enter market or limit orders for all available assets. You cannot enter conditional orders. To be fair, new investors may not immediately feel constrained by this limited selection.

Trading Technology

Robinhood does not publish its trading statistics the way all other brokers do, so it’s hard to compare its payment for order flow statistics to anyone else. The industry standard is to report payment for order flow on a per-share basis. Robinhood reports on a per-dollar basis instead, claiming that it more accurately represents the arrangements it has made with market makers. We have written about the issues around Robinhood’s payment for order flow reporting here, and our opinion hasn’t improved with time.

The way a broker routes your order determines whether you are likely to receive the best possible price at the time your trade is placed. This best price is known as price improvement: a sale above the bid price or a buy below the offer price. Robinhood does not disclose its price improvement statistics, which leads us to make negative assumptions about its order routing practices. The target customer is trading in very small quantities, so price improvement may not be a huge consideration. However, other brokers who also charge $0 for equity trades are offering their customers impressive price improvement, so Robinhood needs to get serious about execution quality in order to stay competitive.

Costs

Robinhood’s trading fees are easy to describe: free. There are some other fees unrelated to trading that are listed below.

  • All equity trades (stocks and ETFs) are commission-free.
  • Options trade for $0—no per-leg fee and no per-contract fee.
  • Trading on margin requires a Robinhood Gold subscription at $5 per month, which includes $1,000 of margin. Margin usage over $1,000 is charged 5% interest, which is relatively low.
  • Account transfer fee is $75.
  • Exercise and assignment fee is $0.
  • Wire fees to send or receive: $25 for domestic wires, $50 for international. It is unusual to be charged to receive a wire.
  • Check fees: $35 to send a domestic check overnight.
  • Live broker fee is $10 per transaction, though it’s not obvious how to contact a broker.

How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You

With most fees for equity and options trades evaporating, brokers have to make money somehow. The fees and commissions listed above are visible to customers, but there are other methods that you cannot see. Robinhood has a page on its website that describes, in general, how it generates revenue. 

  • Interest on cash: Like most brokers, Robinhood generates interest income from the difference between what you are paid on your idle cash and what they can earn on customer cash balances. Robinhood clients, once they make it off the waitlist and design their own Mastercard debit card, can earn modest interest on their uninvested cash, which is swept to its network of FDIC-insured banks. On several pages of the website, the cash feature is labeled “Coming Soon.” 
  • Payment for order flow: Quite a few brokers generate income by accepting payment from market makers for directing their customer’s equity and options orders to those trading venues. This is called payment for order flow (PFOF). We discussed Robinhood’s lack of transparency around PFOF above, but it is worth repeating that this appears to be a major revenue stream for the broker.
  • Stock loan programs: Stock loan programs generate revenue for brokers when the stock held in your account is loaned to another trader or hedge fund, usually for the purposes of selling that stock short. Robinhood retains all the income it generates from loaning out customer stock and does not share it with the client.
  • Margin interest: Robinhood’s margin interest rates are lower than average, though using margin requires paying $5/month for their Gold program whether you are using margin or not.
  • Portfolio Margining: Portfolio margining, which can lower the amount of margin you may need, is not offered by Robinhood.

Account Amenities

  • Robinhood does not offer portfolio margining.
  • Robinhood does not have a stock loan program.
  • Robinhood clients can earn interest on their uninvested cash, which is swept to its network of FDIC-insured banks.
  • Cash sweeps are automatic once a client is enrolled in the program.
  • Clients cannot enroll in dividend reinvestment programs.

Research Amenities

Robinhood’s research offerings are, you guessed it, limited. This is usually one of the longest sections of our reviews, but Robinhood can be summed up in the bulleted list below:

  • There are no screeners for stocks, ETFs, or options.
  • There are no investing-related tools or calculators.
  • The trading idea generators are limited to stock groupings by sector. Once you click on a group, you can add a filter such as price range or market cap.
  • News is available from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and Barron’s in addition to videos from CNN Business, Cheddar, and Reuters.
  • Third-party research from Morningstar can be accessed by Robinhood Gold clients ($5/month subscription).
  • The charting is extremely rudimentary and cannot be customized.

Portfolio Analysis

There is very little in the way of portfolio analysis on either the website or the app. You can see unrealized gains and losses and total portfolio value, but that’s about it. The start screen shows a one-day graph of your portfolio value; you can click or tap a different time period at the bottom of the graph and mouse over it to see specific dates and values. There is no asset allocation analysis, internal rate of return, or way to estimate the tax impact of a planned trade. There is no trading journal.

To perform any kind of portfolio analysis, you’ll have to import your transactions into another program or website.

Education

Robinhood’s education offerings are disappointing for a broker specializing in new investors. There’s a “Learn” page that has a list of articles, displayed in chronological order from most recent to oldest, but it is not organized by topic. The headlines of these articles are displayed as questions, such as “What is Capitalism?” or “What is Inventory?”   There are no videos or webinars available, but the daily Robinhood Snacks three-minute podcast gives some market information.

Customer Service

  • All customer service is done via the app or the website.
  • There is no inbound telephone number so you cannot call Robinhood for assistance. If you work your way through an extensive menu designed to narrow down your support issue, you can enter your own phone number for a callback.
  • You can place a trade through a live broker for $10, but they are not there to offer help otherwise.

Security

Robinhood’s technical security is up to standards, but it is missing a key piece of insurance.

  • Mobile app users can log in with biometric (face or fingerprint) recognition or a custom pin.
  • Robinhood encourages users to enable two-factor authentication.
  • New logins from unrecognized devices also need to be verified with a six digit code that is sent via text message or email in case two-factor authentication is not enabled.
  • Robinhood carries no excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance.
  • Through calendar 2020, there were no significant data breaches reported by the Identity Theft Research Center. 

Our Verdict

If you’re brand new to investing and have a small balance to start with, Robinhood could be the place to help you get used to the idea of trading. The extremely simple app and website are not at all intimidating and provide a smooth on-ramp to the investing experience, especially for those exploring stocks and ETFs. While it’s true that you pay no commissions at Robinhood, its order routing practices are opaque and potentially troubling. Robinhood also has a habit of announcing new products and services every few months, but getting them into production and available to all clients takes a long, long time.

If you’re a trader or an active investor who uses charts, screeners, and analyst research, you’re better off signing up for a broker that has those amenities. Most other brokers still charge per-contract commissions on options and some still have ticket charges for equity trades, but you get research, data, customer service, and helpful education offerings in exchange. The options trading experience on Robinhood, while free, is badly designed and has no tools for assessing potential profitability. Even if you are a new investor only interested in buying and holding stocks, there are many zero-fee brokers to choose from now. They may not all have the flashy marketing that backs up Robinhood, but they have a lot more meat to their platform and much more transparent business models.

SCAM WATCH

Investment schemes involve getting you or your business to part with money on the promise of a questionable financial opportunity.

Common types of investment scams

Investment cold calls

A scammer claiming to be a stock broker or portfolio manager calls you and offers financial or investments advice. They will claim what they are offering is low-risk and will provide you with quick and high returns, or encourage you to invest in overseas companies. The scammer’s offer will sound legitimate and they may have resources to back up their claims. They will be persistent, and may keep calling you back.

The scammer may claim that they do not need an Australian Financial Services licence, or that that they are approved by a real government regulator or affiliated with a genuine company.

The investments offered in these type of cold calls are usually share, mortgage, or real estate high-return schemes, options trading or foreign currency trading. The scammer is operating from overseas, and will not have an Australian Financial Services licence.

Share promotions and hot tips

The scammer encourages you to buy shares in a company that they predict is about to increase in value. You may be contacted by email or the message will be posted in a forum. The message will seem like an inside tip and stress that you need to act quickly. The scammer is trying to boost the price of stock so they can sell shares they have already bought, and make a huge profit. The share value will then go down dramatically.

If you invest you will be left with large losses or shares that are virtually worthless.

Investment seminars

Investment seminars are promoted by promising motivational speakers, investment experts, or self-made millionaires who will give you expert advice on investing. They are designed to convince you into following high risk investment strategies such as borrowing large sums of money to buy property, or investments that involve lending money on a no security basis or other risky terms.

Promoters make money by charging you an attendance fee, selling overpriced reports or books, and by selling investments and property without letting you get independent advice. The investments on offer are generally overvalued and you may end up having to pay fees and commissions that the promoters did not tell you about. High pressure sales tactics or false and misleading claims are often used to pressure you into investing, such as guaranteed rent or discounts for buying off the plan.

If you invest there is a high chance you will lose money.

Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart for more information about investment seminar scams.

Superannuation

Superannuation scams offer to give you early access to your super fund, often through a self-managed super fund or for a fee. The offer may come from a financial adviser, or a scammer posing as one. The scammer may ask you to agree to a story to ensure the early release of your money and then, acting as your financial adviser, they will deceive your superannuation company into paying out your super benefits directly to them. Once they have your money, the scammer may take large ‘fees’ out of the released fund or leave you with nothing at all.

You cannot legally access the preserved part of your super until you are between 55 and 60, depending what year you were born. There are certain exceptions such as severe financial hardship or compassionate grounds – but anyone who otherwise offers early access to your super is acting illegally.

Visit ASIC’s MoneySmart for more information about how super works.

Warning signs

  • You receive a call, or repeated calls, from someone offering unsolicited advice on investments. They may try to keep you on the phone for a long time, or try and transfer you to a more senior person. You are told that you need to act quickly and invest or you will miss out.
  • You receive an email from a stranger offering advice on the share price of a particular company. It may not be addressed to you personally, and may even give the impression it was sent to you by mistake.
  • An advertisement or seminar makes claims such as ‘risk-free investment’, ‘be a millionaire in three years’, or ‘get-rich quick’.
  • You are invited to attend a free seminar, but there are high fees to attend any further sessions. The scammer, posing as the promoter, may offer you a loan to cover both the cost of your attendance at the additional seminars and investments.
  • You see an advertisement promising a quick and easy way to ‘unlock’ your superannuation early.

Protect yourself

  • Do not give your details to an unsolicited caller or reply to emails offering financial advice or investment opportunities – just hang up or delete the email.
  • Be suspicious of investment opportunities that promise a high return with little or no risk.
  • Check if a financial advisor is registered via the ASIC website. Any business or person that offers or advises you about financial products must be an Australian Financial Services (AFS) licence holder.
  • Check ASIC’s list of companies you should not deal with. If the company that called you is on the list – do not deal with them.
  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions about your money or investments and never commit to any investment at a seminar – always get independent legal or financial advice.
  • Do not respond to emails from strangers offering predictions on shares, investment tips, or investment advice.
  • If you feel an offer to buy shares might be legitimate, always check the company’s listing on the stock exchange for its current value and recent shares performance. Some offers to buy your shares may be well below market value.
  • Never commit to any investment at a seminar – always take time to consider the opportunity and seek independent financial advice.
  • If you are under 55, watch out for offers promoting easy access to your preserved superannuation benefits. If you illegally access your super early, you may face penalties under taxation law.

Have you been scammed?

If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

We encourage you to report scams to the ACCC via the report a scam page. This helps us to warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible. Please include details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.

Scams that relate to financial services can also be reported to ASIC.

Spread the word to your friends and family to protect them.

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