Category: scam

Avoiding Bad Advisors

Some good advice from SeekingAlpha:

The elephant standing in the room in all discussions of financial advice is the unethical advisor who offers bad, or not good, advice. Many commentators prefer not to dignify such people with the term “advisor.” I completely agree that the gulf is wide between these folks and those who genuinely possess advisory credentials; the trouble is that they typically call themselves advisors and they often give advice – it’s just that such advice is conflicted!

At their most extreme, bad advisors are the sharks sitting down in a Long Island boiler room pushing some pump-and-dump microcrap to widows lacking a companion to speak with. They talk about how their stock (or any other money-making device) is poised to shoot for the moon, and try to make you feel stupid for not handing over everything you’ve got.

Most people can recognize such wolves in sheep’s clothing, but seniors are not infrequently taken in, not because of their age certainly, but because of the growing problem of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s and the like. A major national survey conducted two years ago by Public Policy Polling on behalf of nonprofit Investor Protection Trust found that nearly one in five Americans aged 65 and older had been victims of a financial swindle.

It is relevant to point out that a good financial advisor is often the first line of defense against such predators, as are adult children with sufficient awareness of the issue and, increasingly, doctors now trained to check for signs of financial exploitation when treating patients experiencing cognitive decline. It is also critical to note that a big source of vulnerability is the lack of awareness (of seniors and their adult children) of such decline.

Beyond the outright looting of bank accounts and the like, there are advisors who, on their own initiative or as a result of pressure from their firms, operate like used-car dealers are reputed to do; that is, they try to “put you in” a product today. And the firms we’re talking about, it is important to note, are not just large full-service brokerage firms that have been embroiled in past scandals, but also the discount brokerage firms of saintly reputation that are associated in the public mind as pro-consumer. Here’s a quote from an article by Bloomberg’s Nir Kaiser, citing a recent Wall Street Journal report:

Fidelity representatives are paid 0.04% of the assets clients invest in most types of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds,” but they earn 0.1% on investments that “generate higher annual fees for Fidelity, such as managed accounts, annuities and referrals to independent financial advisors.”

I think the above quote gets to the nub of the problem of unethical advice. Anyone who has any interest other than the client’s best interest should be automatically disqualified from offering you advice. The reason is simply that the person cannot be trusted. Maybe he is generally an upstanding citizen but the day you need his advice, he’s got a big bill to pay at home and convinces himself, first, that the product that will put the biggest jingle in his pocket is just the thing you need. Or, maybe the advisor faces no personal financial pressure whatsoever, but faces pressure to “perform” at work, and wants to keep his job. A 2015 survey from whistleblower securities law firm Labaton Sucharow found that nearly one in five financial industry respondents felt that financial services professionals must at least sometimes engage in illegal or unethical practices.

Such pressures exist in every field, but perverse incentives increase where large sums of money are involved. Many honest advisors seeking to break away from what they see as a conflicted corporate environment have undertaken fiduciary responsibilities, banded with an organization that imposes ethical standards and very often set up their practices as registered independent advisors, or RIAs. These are all good ideas, and favor good advice, but it bears mentioning that there are honest advisors outside of this framework, and that this framework doesn’t guarantee honest advice. Ultimately, it is incumbent on every individual who could benefit from professional financial advice to hone his own ability to detect integrity or the lack thereof, and to find an honest and capable advisors whose advice will help them succeed beyond the cost they are paying for the service.

Getting financial guidance is more important than ever, but be careful who you take advice from.  If you have questions, feel free to ask us.

New Scam Tricks Advisors Into Giving Up Clients’ Money

Financial fraud has always been a problem, but the Internet has enabled entirely new ways of stealing money. We recently received an alert about a new scheme to defraud advisors and their clients.

The scam begins with an email to an advisor that includes a bogus invoice. The email appears to come from a client, and it includes a request to send money directly to the business listed on the invoice. The invoice might appear to be for purchases such as antiques or art, or for such things as attorney fees or legal settlements. The advisor sends the money, and the fraud is complete.

The payee is often in a foreign country or at an overseas bank. This makes it nearly impossible to catch the thieves or reclaim the money. The FBI estimates that more than 2,000 victims lost more than $214 million to this scam between October 2013 and December 2015.

My firm has a policy of not sending clients’ money to third parties based on email communication alone. But we go beyond simply confirming client requests by phone. It is our policy to get to know our clients personally. We know if they have a pattern of sending money to third parties. In all cases, we require a written letter of authorization as well as verbal confirmation from the client before any money is sent out.

The recent news that personal information about more than 20 million government employees, contractors and others was stolen highlights the importance of the security of your financial information. It also makes dealing with a financial firm where you are an individual, not a number, increasingly important.

NOTE: We recently submitted this article to NerdWallet who posted it on their Advisor Voices board.

Protecting yourself against financial fraud.

Bernie Madoff isn’t the only fraudster preying on the unwary. There are a number of scam artists in the financial services business.

There’s the case of Malcolm Segal. According to the SEC:

Segal allegedly promised his clients 12{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} returns on CDs bought through Aegis. But he’s alleged in some cases to have either bought the CDs but redeemed them early or not bought them at all. Citing the SEC, the Philadelphia Business Journal says he raised about $15.5 million from at least 50 investors in this fashion.

It puzzles me how people can actually fall for something like this. Perhaps I have been in the investment business so long that I have seen too many of the ways people are fleeced out of their money.

How do you protect yourself against financial fraud? The first thing to do is to be suspicious of offers that are too good to be true. No actual, legitimate bank is offering 12{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} CDs in a 1{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} interest rate environment.

Another thing to do is to make sure that your assets are held in custody be a third party; a custodian like Charles Schwab, Fidelity or a major bank trust department.  The reason that Madoff was able to fool his clients for so many years is that he printed his own statements. These statements “showed” that he was trading for them and that they were making money. In reality, he was not trading and their account statements were fabrications.

At Korving & Company we use Schwab as our custodian and our clients receive trade confirmations and statements from directly from Schwab. We encourage our clients to view their accounts on-line at Schwab.

We had an experience with a client who had an account with another advisor. He suddenly dropped his custodian and began producing his own account statements. That’s a wake-up call. They asked us to look at their statements and when we noticed that their end-of-year tax reports did not include taxable income from CDs that he claimed to have bought for them, we knew he was defrauding them.

If you have any concerns about your financial advisor, feel free to contact us for a second opinion.

 
[contact-form subject='[Korving {030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}26amp; Company Blog’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

8 Common Reasons for Retirement Failure

1. Overspending.

-You won’t spend less in retirement.  The old saw that retirees only spend 80% of their pre-retirement income is a myth.

2. Elder Fraud.

-Seniors are becoming the favored victims of swindlers.

3. Health care.

-As we age the cost of medical care goes up.  Medicare is covering less and premiums are going up.

4. Starting a business.

-Investing capital in a business that fails can devastate retirement finances.

5. Adult children.

-Helping your children through a “rough patch” can become is one of the most common ways of ending up broke.

6. Second homes.

-The cost of maintaining that vacation home when you’re no longer working can drain your resources when your income drops.

7. Divorce.

-Couples sometimes wait until the children leave home to divorce.  When assets are split 50/50, retirement becomes a problem for both parties.

8. Investment mistakes.

-Making poor investment choices is one of the most common ways of ruining your retirement lifestyle.

If you are nearing retirement, don’t enter into it without a plan.

Protecting Elderly Clients

Much has been written about the vulnerability of the elderly to scams that are perpetrated on them. Because seniors are concerned about health care, con artists prey on the elderly to get them to buy fraudulent products or services. Home improvement scammers prey on the elderly by providing shoddy or unnecessary repairs. Stories about unscrupulous financial advisors are frequently in the news. Funeral homes have been known to get the elderly to spend more than they want or need. Some scammers will read the obituaries and pretend that the deceased ordered products or owed a debt to try to get money from the surviving spouse.

Very often the people preying on the elderly are relatives. Because most of us trust our relatives, it gives them an opportunity to take advantage. Children have been known to move back into the family home and physically abuse their elderly parents. They may employ emotional blackmail. They may threaten to stop visiting or calling.  They may tell their parents that not giving them money means that they don’t love them. Often a demand for money is disguised as help with bills, or presents to grandchildren.

Of course parents make gifts to children and grandchildren all the time. But there is a line beyond which it becomes clear that children are looking to get their “inheritance” early. This can lead to an impoverished parent who loses his independence, or even his home.

It can be very difficult for a concerned financial advisor to protect his client from predatory relatives.  Often the parents want give money to their children and may be unaware of the financial consequences.  As fiduciaries we have to keep in mind that our obligation is to our client; not her children, grandchildren or any other relatives. You may have to tell your client “I know you love your son, but you should not give him the house because you may need to sell it so that you can move into a senior living facility.” Of course this can create a conflict with the relatives who will not appreciate what you are doing.

At some point it may be necessary to get an attorney involved, one who specializes in elder care. This is particularly important if the heirs don’t get along. If the elderly become incapable of managing their own affairs they can assign power-of-attorney to a third party.  If the children are not competent, or if there is a conflict, appointing an attorney as the executor of the estate may be preferable to appointing a relative.

Providing financial guidance to the elderly is much more than managing their portfolio. There is often much more going on that is critical to the well-being of the client, and avoid the chance that they run out of money before they run out of time.

Connect With Us

Korving & Company, Investment Management, Suffolk, VA

Contact Us

Newsletter Signup

© 2021 Korving & Company, LLC