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Is Your Forex Broker a Scam?

If you do an internet search on forex broker scams, the number of results is staggering. While the forex market is slowly becoming more regulated, there are many unscrupulous brokers who should not be in business.

When you’re looking to trade forex, it’s important to identify brokers who are reliable and viable, and to avoid the ones that are not. In order to sort out the strong brokers from the weak and the reputable ones from those with shady dealings, we must go through a series of steps before depositing a large amount of capital with a broker.

Trading is hard enough in itself, but when a broker implements practices that work against the trader, making a profit can be nearly impossible.

Key Takeaways

  • If your broker does not respond to you, it may be a red flag that he or she is not looking out for your best interests.
  • To make sure you’re not being duped by a shady broker, do your research, make sure there are no complaints, and read through all the fine print on documents.
  • Try opening a mini account with a small balance first, and make trades for a month before attempting a withdrawal.
  • If you see buy and sell trades for securities that don’t fit your objectives, your broker may be churning.
  • If you are stuck with a bad broker, review all your documents and discuss your course of action before taking more drastic measures.

Separating Forex Fact From Fiction

When researching a potential forex broker, traders must learn to separate fact from fiction. For instance, faced with all sorts of forums posts, articles, and disgruntled comments about a broker, we could assume that all traders fail and never make a profit. The traders that fail to make profits then post content online that blames the broker (or some other outside influence) for their own failed strategies.

One common complaint from traders is that a broker was intentionally trying to cause a loss in the form of statements such as, “As soon as I placed the trade, the direction of the market reversed” or “The broker stop hunted my positions,” and “I always had slippage on my orders, and never in my favor.” These types of experiences are common among traders and it is quite possible that the broker is not at fault.

Rookie Traders

It is also entirely possible that new forex traders fail to trade with a tested strategy or trading plan. Instead, they make trades based on psychology (e.g., if a trader feels the market has to move in one direction or the other) and there is essentially a 50% chance they will be correct.

When the rookie trader enters a position, they are often entering when their emotions are waning. Experienced traders are aware of these junior tendencies and step in, taking the trade the other way. This befuddles new traders and leaves them feeling that the market—or their brokers—are out to get them and take their individual profits. Most of the time, this is not the case. It is simply a failure by the trader to understand market dynamics.

Broker Failures

On occasion, losses are the broker’s fault. This can occur when a broker attempts to rack up trading commissions at the client’s expense. There have been reports of brokers arbitrarily moving quoted rates to trigger stop orders when other brokers’ rates have not moved to that price.

Luckily for traders, this type of situation is an outlier and not likely to occur. One must remember that trading is usually not a zero-sum game, and brokers primarily make commissions with increased trading volumes. Overall, it is in the best interest of brokers to have long-term clients who trade regularly and thus, sustain capital or make a profit.

Behavioral Trading

The slippage issue can often be attributed to behavioral economics. It is common practice for inexperienced traders to panic. They fear missing a move, so they hit their buy key, or they fear losing more and they hit the sell key.

In volatile exchange rate environments, the broker cannot ensure an order will be executed at the desired price. This results in sharp movements and slippage. The same is true for stop or limit orders. Some brokers guarantee stop and limit order fills, while others do not.

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Even in more transparent markets, slippage happens, markets move, and we don’t always get the price we want.

Communication Is Key

Real problems can begin to develop when communication between a trader and a broker begins to break down. If a trader does not receive responses from their broker or the broker provides vague answers to a trader’s questions, these are common red flags that a broker may not be looking out for the client’s best interest.

Issues of this nature should be resolved and explained to the trader, and the broker should also be helpful and display good customer relations. One of the most detrimental issues that may arise between a broker and a trader is the trader’s inability to withdraw money from an account.

Broker Research Protects You

Protecting yourself from unscrupulous brokers in the first place is ideal. The following steps should help:

  • Do an online search for reviews of the broker. A generic internet search can provide insights into whether negative comments could just be a disgruntled trader or something more serious. A good supplement to this type of search is BrokerCheck from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which indicates whether there are outstanding legal actions against the broker. And if appropriate, gain a clearer understanding of the U.S. regulations for forex brokers.
  • Make sure there are no complaints about not being able to withdraw funds. If there are, contact the user if possible and ask them about their experience.
  • Read through all the fine print of the documents when opening an account. Incentives to open an account can often be used against the trader when attempting to withdraw funds. For instance, if a trader deposits $10,000 and gets a $2,000 bonus, and then the trader loses money and attempts to withdraw some remaining funds, the broker may say they cannot withdraw the bonus funds. Reading the fine print will help make sure you understand all contingencies in these types of instances.
  • If you are satisfied with your research on a particular broker, open a mini account or an account with a small amount of capital. Trade it for a month or more, and then attempt to make a withdrawal. If everything has gone well, it should be relatively safe to deposit more funds. If you have problems, attempt to discuss them with the broker. If that fails, move on and post a detailed account of your experience online so others can learn from your experience.

It should be pointed out that a broker’s size cannot be used to determine the level of risk involved. While larger brokers grow by providing a certain standard of service, the 2008-2009 financial crisis taught us that a big or popular firm isn’t always safe.

The Temptation to Churn

Brokers or planners who are paid commissions for buying and selling securities can sometimes succumb to the temptation to effect transactions simply for the purpose of generating a commission. Those who do this excessively can be found guilty of churning—a term coined by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that denotes when a broker places trades for a purpose other than to benefit the client. Those who are found guilty of this can face fines, reprimands, suspension, dismissal, disbarment, or even criminal sanctions in some cases.

SEC Defines Churning

The SEC defines churning in the following manner:

Churning occurs when a broker engages in excessive buying and selling of securities in a customer’s account chiefly to generate commissions that benefit the broker. For churning to occur, the broker must exercise control over the investment decisions in the customer’s account, such as through a formal written discretionary agreement. Frequent in-and-out purchases and sales of securities that don’t appear necessary to fulfill the customer’s investment goals may be evidence of churning. Churning is illegal and unethical. It can violate SEC Rule 15c1-7 and other securities laws.

The key to remember here is that the trades that are placed are not increasing your account value. If you have given your broker trading authority over your account, then the possibility of churning can only exist if they are trading your account heavily, and your balance either remains the same or decreases in value over time.

Of course, it is possible that your broker may be genuinely attempting to grow your assets, but you need to find out exactly what they are doing and why. If you are calling the shots and the broker is following your instructions, then that cannot be classified as churning.

Evaluate Your Trades

One of the clearest signs of churning can be when you see buy and sell trades for securities that don’t fit your investment objectives. For example, if your objective is to generate a current stable income, then you should not be seeing buy and sell trades on your statements for small-cap equity or technology stocks or funds.

Churning with derivatives such as put and call options can be even harder to spot, as these instruments can be used to accomplish a variety of objectives. But buying and selling puts and calls should, in most cases, only be happening if you have a high-risk tolerance. Selling calls and puts can generate current income as long as it is done prudently.

How Regulators Evaluate Churning

An arbitration panel will consider several factors when they conduct hearings to determine whether a broker has been churning an account. They will examine the trades that were placed in light of the client’s level of education, experience, and sophistication as well as the nature of the client’s relationship with the broker. They will also weigh the number of solicited versus unsolicited trades and the dollar amount of commissions that have been generated as compared to the client’s gains or losses as a result of these trades.

There are times when it may seem like your broker may be churning your account, but this may not necessarily be the case. If you have questions about this and feel uneasy about what your advisor is doing with your money, then don’t hesitate to consult a securities attorney or file a complaint on the SEC’s website.

Already Stuck With a Bad Broker?

Unfortunately, options are very limited at this stage. However, there are a few things you can do. First, read through all documents to make sure your broker is actually in the wrong. If you have missed something or failed to read the documents you signed, you may have to assume the blame.

Next, discuss the course of action you will take if the broker does not adequately answer your questions or provide a withdrawal. Steps may include posting comments online or reporting the broker to FINRA or the appropriate regulatory body in your country.

The Bottom Line

While traders may blame brokers for their losses, there are times when brokers really are at fault. A trader needs to be thorough and conduct research on a broker before opening an account and if the research turns up positive for the broker, then a small deposit should be made, followed by a few trades and then a withdrawal. If this goes well, then a larger deposit can be made.

However, if you are already in a problematic situation, you should verify that the broker is conducting illegal activity (such as churning), attempt to have your questions answered, and if all else fails, and/or report the person to the SEC, FINRA, or another regulatory body that could enforce action against them.

How to Spot a Forex Scam

The spot forex market trades over $5 trillion a day, including currency options and futures contracts. With this enormous amount of money floating around in an unregulated spot market that trades instantly, over the counter, with no accountability, forex scams offer unscrupulous operators the lure of earning fortunes in limited amounts of time. While many once-popular scams have ceased—thanks to serious enforcement actions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the 1982 formation of the self-regulatory National Futures Association (NFA)—some old scams linger, and new ones keep popping up.

Back in the Day: The Point-Spread Scam

An old point-spread forex scam was based on computer manipulation of bid-ask spreads. The point spread between the bid and ask basically reflects the commission of a back-and-forth transaction processed through a broker. These spreads typically differ between currency pairs. The scam occurs when those point spreads differ widely among brokers.

Key Takeaways

  • Many scams in the forex market are no longer as pervasive due to tighter regulations, but some problems still exist.
  • One shady practice is when forex brokers offer wide bid-ask spreads on certain currency pairs, making it more difficult to earn profits on trades.
  • Be careful of any offshore, unregulated broker.
  • Individuals and companies that market systems—like signal sellers or robot trading—sometimes sell products that are not tested and do not yield profitable results.
  • If the forex broker is commingling funds or limiting customer withdrawals, it could be an indicator that something fishy is going on.

For instance, some brokers do not offer the normal two-point to three-point spread in the EUR/USD but spreads of seven pips or more. (A pip is the smallest price move that a given exchange rate makes based on market convention. Since most major currency pairs are priced to four decimal places, the smallest change is that of the last decimal point.) Factor in four or more additional pips on every trade, and any potential gains resulting from a good trade can be eaten away by commissions, depending on how the forex broker structures their fees for trading.

This scam has quieted down over the last 10 years, but be careful of any offshore retail brokers that are not regulated by the CFTC, NFA, or their nation of origin. These tendencies still exist, and it’s quite easy for firms to pack up and disappear with the money when confronted with actions. Many saw a jail cell for these computer manipulations. But the majority of violators have historically been United States-based companies, not the offshore ones.

The Signal-Seller Scam

A popular modern-day scam is the signal seller. Signal sellers are retail firms, pooled asset managers, managed account companies, or individual traders that offer a system—for a daily, weekly, or monthly fee—that claims to identify favorable times to buy or sell a currency pair based on professional recommendations that will make anyone wealthy. They tout their long experience and trading abilities, plus testimonials from people who vouch for how great a trader and friend the person is, and the vast wealth that this person has earned for them. All the unsuspecting trader has to do is hand over X amount of dollars for the privilege of trade recommendations.

Many of signal-seller scammers simply collect money from a certain number of traders and disappear. Some will recommend a good trade now and then, to allow the signal money to perpetuate. This new scam is slowly becoming a wider problem. Although there are signal sellers who are honest and perform trade functions as intended, it pays to be skeptical.

“Robot” Scamming in Today’s Market

A persistent scam, old and new, presents itself in some types of forex-developed trading systems. These scammers tout their system’s ability to generate automatic trades that, even while you sleep, earn vast wealth. Today, the new terminology is “robot” because the process is fully automated with computers. Either way, many of these systems have never been submitted for formal review or tested by an independent source.

Examination of a forex robot must include the testing of a trading system’s parameters and optimization codes. If the parameters and optimization codes are invalid, the system will generate random buy and sell signals. This will cause unsuspecting traders to do nothing more than gamble. Although tested systems exist on the market, potential forex traders should do some research before putting money into one of these approaches.

Other Factors to Consider

Traditionally, many trading systems have been quite costly, up to $5,000 or more. This can be viewed as a scam in itself. No trader should pay more than a few hundred dollars for a proper system today. Be especially careful of system sellers who offer programs at exorbitant prices justified by a guarantee of phenomenal results. Instead, look for legitimate sellers whose systems have been properly tested to potentially earn income.

Another persistent problem is the commingling of funds. Without a record of segregated accounts, individuals cannot track the exact performance of their investments. This makes it easier for retail firms to use an investor’s money to pay exorbitant salaries; buy houses, cars, and planes or just disappear with the funds. Section 4D of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 addressed the issue of fund segregation; what occurs in other nations is a separate issue.

An important factor to always consider when choosing a broker or a trading system is to be skeptical of promises or promotional material that guarantees a high level of performance.

Other scams and warning signs exist when brokers won’t allow the withdrawal of monies from investor accounts, or when problems exist within the trading platform. For example, can you enter or exit a trade during volatile market action after an economic announcement? If you can’t withdraw money, warning signs should flash. If the trading platform doesn’t operate to your liquidity expectations, warning signs should flash again.

The Bottom Line

Conduct due diligence on the forex broker you’re considering by going to the Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC), created by the NFA. Many changes have driven out the crooks and the old scams and legitimized the system for the many good firms. However, always be wary of new forex scams; the temptation and allure of huge profits will always bring new and more sophisticated scammers to this market.

Firm Fountain Review: Is firmfountaininv.com A Scam?

I worked at Maverick Trading for less than a year

Zero! All the money you are forced to put up, you can learn the same trading ideas on Options on Youtube

This place should be shut down by the Feds immediately! I’m not sure how they get away with this BS! They make you deposit 20% of your own capital, while they charge you commissions on trades and then if you happen to make a profit, they take a huge piece of that as well. Your better off trading and doing research on your own!

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Maverick Trading Response

January 18, 2020 –

Thanks for the review and for your opinion. We understand everyone is able to anonymously write reviews and voice their thoughts. I just want to touch on a few points. Anyone can learn this off Youtube – We believe Youtube is a great resource for learning. However, trading is a very tough profession and many people that “know” the strategies fail to make profits trading. Maverick provides not only training and capital but risk management and regular trading reviews with senior traders to help increase profitability. We have been reviewed by the SEC and have received a no action letter which is the best thing the SEC gives. We also have yearly compliance reviews with our Broker/Dealer (Interactive Brokers). We have a top notch legal team that has advised us over the past 20 years in business to make sure we are running a legal trading firm. We DO NOT MARK UP OUR COMMISSIONS on our traders as we are not a BD. We only profit from our trader’s trading activities when they profit.

How to Avoid Forex Trading Scams in 2020

Forex markets trade trillions of dollars a day. Traders around the globe are always looking for the best broker to trade forex, CFDs, binary options, stocks, cryptocurrencies, etc. With new forex brokers popping up constantly, determining the legitimacy of a broker can be a real challenge. As a consumer, it is vital to research a company before depositing money to trade. At ForexBrokers.com, it’s our mission to assist you as much as possible with that research.

Most Trusted Forex Brokers Comparison

Taken from our forex broker comparison tool, here’s a comparison of the must trusted forex brokers.

Feature IG
Visit Site
Swissquote CMC Markets Saxo Bank
Trust Score 99 99 99 98
Year Founded 1974 1996 1989 1992
Publicly Traded (Listed) Yes Yes Yes No
Bank Yes Yes No Yes
Tier-1 Licenses 6 4 4 6
Tier-2 Licenses 3 1 2 1
Tier-3 Licenses 1 0 0 0
Authorised in the European Union Yes Yes Yes Yes

Questions to ask to avoid a forex trading scam

  • Is the broker regulated?
  • If regulated, how trustworthy is the regulatory body?
  • Is the broker offering profits or rewards for opening an account?
  • Is the broker offering a cash bonus for opening an account?
  • Is the broker offering automatic trades or signals to guarantee profits?
  • Is any credible information about the company included on its website, such as company history, financials, headquarters’ address, or similar?
  • If awards are cited, can I verify their authenticity?
  • If a big corporate sponsorship is promoted (e.g. athlete sponsorship), am I doing my due dilligence to ensure the company can be trusted?

1) Is the broker regulated?

Unregulated brokers do not have to report to a governing body. This means that if they scam you in any way, whether it be “glitches” or “malfunctions” causing sever slippage in their system, or you go to make a withdrawal and they don’t process it (steal your money), you are out of luck. Beyond posting a bad review online, there is little you can do because these brokers have no legal authority to answer to.

How do I check if a broker is regulated? The easiest way to check a broker’s registration is to look for it at the bottom of the website. The picture below is the bottom of 12Trader, a broker we recommend avoiding. You’ll notice that nowhere in this picture is a regulatory body mentioned. The “about us” pages on the site link to an account login prompt. Nowhere on the site is there any mention of regulation or company history. All of these warning signs should make you cautious.

Now let’s look at the bottom of the homepage of City Index, a trusted and regulated broker.

You will notice 1) the company specifically warns of the risks involved in trading CFDs, 2) the company is registered in England and Wales and has posted an address, and 3) the company is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and has posted a registration number.

Conclusion: A regulated broker is required to include proper risk disclaimers and regulatory information at the bottom of all their website pages. To make it easy for investors, ForexBrokers.com includes a Trust Score for each broker, which assesses overall trustworthiness based on where the broker is regulated and its history as a firm.

2) If regulated, how trustworthy is the regulatory body?

Some scam brokers claim to be regulated and registered by a governing body that does not monitor or regulate forex companies.

For example, let’s look at Evolve Markets.

The disclosures at the bottom of the homepage give the appearance of a regulated broker. There is a warning of the risks of trading CFDs, and there is a legal section. Upon further examination of the legal section, you’ll notice that while the firm is registered as an international broker company in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, it is not regulated.

This statement from St. Vincent & the Grenadines shows there is a warning against false claims of registration or license.

How do I know what regulatory bodies are legitimate?

Forex brokers that are regulated in a major hub are always more trustworthy. Brokers in emerging hubs can also be trustworthy, but caution is warranted. Based on our annual study of regulatory trustworthiness, here is a list of the regulatory bodies we track and how trustworthy each one is:

  • FCA Regulated – Financial Conduct Authority – United Kingdom – (Great)
  • CySEC Regulated – Cyprus Securities & Exchange Commission – Cyprus (OK)
  • ASIC Regulated – Australian Securities & Investment Commission – Australia (Good)
  • SFC Authorized – Securities Futures Commission – Hong Kong (Good)
  • MAS Authorized – Monetary Authority of Singapore – Singapore (Good)
  • FSA Authorized – Financial Services Agency – Japan (Good)
  • IIROC Authorized – Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada – Canada (Good)
  • FINMA Authorized – Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority – Switzerland (Good)
  • FMA Authorized – Financial Markets Authority – New Zealand (OK)

Conclusion: Double check the authority of the governing body that regulates the broker you are looking at. You can go to the website of the governing body to search for the registration number and verify its legitimacy. To help investors find a trusted broker where they live, we have created country-specific forex broker guides.

3) Is the broker offering profits or rewards for opening an account?

Scam brokers often make claims such as “make $50 a day from a $250 investment” or “make 80% returns on profit signals” or “96% success rate.” These claims are a scam, regardless of whether they are being made for forex, CFDs, or binary options. Forex brokers should not promise returns at all, small or large. Simply put, if a broker is promising to make you money, it is a scam. Other common scam practices include advertising pictures of expensive cars that are given away to lucky investors.

This Wikipedia page on binary options does a great job of summarizing risks related to binary options:

“Many binary option “brokers” have been exposed as fraudulent operations. In those cases, there is no real brokerage; the customer is betting against the broker, who is acting as a bucket shop. Manipulation of price data to cause customers to lose is common. Withdrawals are regularly stalled or refused by such operations; if a client has good reason to expect payment, the operator will simply stop taking their phone calls. Though binary options sometimes trade on a regulated exchange, they are generally unregulated, trading on the Internet, and prone to fraud.”

Conclusion: If a binary options or forex broker promises you big returns on your money, this is a clear sign of a scam. You will not make $100,000 on a mega-trade; you will not make a 96% profit in 30 seconds; and you will not win a $40,000 car by depositing $2,000. Save your money and STAY AWAY.

4) Is the broker offering a cash bonus for opening an account?

When a broker offers an abnormally high cash bonus, is not regulated, and does not show offer details for the bonus, then you are likely dealing with a scam broker. For example, 1000Extra hints at a bonus of $1,000 with their vague promotional offer. If you click around trying to gather more information you are redirected to sign up for an account.

1000Extra is not regulated, has minimal information about the company, and has scam reports across the web.

Conclusion: In most regulated regions around the world, promotional bonuses for opening a new account are not allowed. The two exceptions are the United States, which is for US citizens only, and Asia.

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