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1 born every minute: Many can't spot scams

A study by an investment regulatory group finds that a large percentage of Americans can't spot even obvious attempts at separating them from their money.

By Mitch Lipka Sep 12, 2013 5:50PM

Image: Throwing money down a hole (© Art Glazer/Stock Illustration/Getty Images)Hey consumers and investors, it's time to get your game on. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation made some disturbing findings about your ability to figure out when someone is trying to rip you off.


First, let's be clear. People are trying to rip you off. More than 80% of those surveyed said they had received solicitations to buy into a potential scam. Given how many shady emails pepper our email in-boxes that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.


But, the survey also found that more than four in 10 Americans can't spot what should be obvious warning signs that someone is trying to rip them off. When presented with the idea that they could get "guaranteed" returns on an investment or promises of returns in excess of 100% a year, that group gave its thumbs-up.


"One of the most disturbing findings is that many Americans can't identify the classic red flags of fraud," said Gerri Walsh, president of the foundation, which is the educational arm of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

In the investment world, there is no such thing as a sure thing. And certainly, no one can promise you an enormous return. If they did, you need to ask yourself why are they telling you? If they had such a great investment, why share it with people they don't even know? Truth is that they will be making money from you -- not the investment.


Seniors are even more susceptible to falling for fraud. Those 65 and over are more than 30% more likely to buy into a scam than those in their 40s.

"When it comes to financial fraud, America is a nation at risk," Walsh said. "Fraudsters are very effective at reaching and enticing vulnerable populations into turning over their money, and far too few Americans are able to detect likely fraudulent sales pitches."


Those who have been taken advantage of also tend to be very reluctant to report what happened to them, the study found. But Walsh said that more than the embarrassment or shame, victims decided against telling the authorities because they didn't think there was anything they could do.


She urges victims to report the crimes as soon as they suspect something is awry. FINRA has a fraud investigation unit and other agencies -- including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Federal Trade Commission -- all investigate various types of financial scams.


The key is to avoid becoming a victim in the first place and use restraint when presented with an opportunity to make money.


FINRA has an interactive tool to help consumers figure out if they're being scammed. Give it a try.

More from MSN Money:

Sep 13, 2013 9:11AM

Best scam ever.  Obama 2008 campaign slogan "Change we can believe in" 


Anyone that believed that and voted for the idiot was scammed

Sep 12, 2013 9:18PM
The reason is;  everyone thinks they are going to get something for nothing. You are not. Scammers appeal to the greed in us. These  f#€£¥#rs are plotting while you sleep.  They should pour all that time and effort into a legitimate business venture. Hard work and perseverance; what you need to succeed. And save. You don't need the latest and greatest everything. 
Sep 13, 2013 2:46AM

I do not buy or contribute to any outfit that is selling stuff on the telephone, internet or mail that I have never heard of. I usually hang up two seconds into a telemarketer's pitch. I check out charitable organizations to see how much their administrative costs are. Follow this advise along with if it sounds too good to be true it probably is and it will be almost impossible to get conned. Financial deals with family and friends is also a no no. .

Sep 13, 2013 8:00AM
In my early investing years, I lost my entire life savings to penny stock scams.  They came in the form of a 'stock deck', a bunch of cards, each of which promised a successful product or idea.

This is before spam e-mails touting the same thing.

Anyway, I had gotten ideas from there along with maybe news snippets from the paper.  The story is always the same:

I would buy X number of shares, then cost average down, and it got to the point I'd be buying 10,000 shares at $0.03 each (when I originally paid $0.30, maybe).  It was always tossing good money after bad.  I would eventually call the companies to find out what was going on and they would always give me the same reassuring line.  Challenging times, new products on the horizaon, just got back from a stock promotion, and so on. 

Of course phone lines eventually disconnected.

Back then, I fell prey to environmental companies.  You feel good buy investing in one of those, so it's easy to get taken.

Had I tendered all my savings to Warren Buffet at the time (it was the 1990s when I got taken) I'd be sitting on $500k by now.  I could actually retire if I had trusted the man from Omaha.  That is mind boggling.  Anyone who follows Berkshire Hathaway knows it's the 180 degree opposite to a penny stock.

Someone told me back then, at least it happened when I was young.  If I lost my shirt I could always work to get it back.  Elderly people usually do not have that option.

Sep 13, 2013 11:31AM
"One born every minute?, can't spot a scam artist"? Gee msn you finally got one right! Obama getting elected(twice) is living proof of just how gullible and stupid americans really are.
Sep 13, 2013 10:18AM
Scams are everywhere, ever have a radio host go on and on about the world coming to an end, and then try to sell you gold, guns and survival gear or a bank agent that tells you home value will go up 20% per year for ever. Fear and greed are the two biggest sellers and the battle field is your mind.
Sep 13, 2013 9:58AM
Sep 14, 2013 12:50AM
Sep 23, 2013 6:52AM

Obamacare ,,probably one of the biggest scams ever..If you voted for this idiot don't complain when it're getting what you asked for. Enjoy,,,,,he's not giving you ,he's taking you. Your job ,your money,your hours at work and more,,,,,,I'm in the insurance business,When your health bill hits around

8 to 12 hundred dollars a month and your work hours are around 29 a week if you voted for him good luck.Enjoy the fruits of your vote because he scammed you.

Sep 13, 2013 10:58AM
This is exactly why was created. It makes me sad to keep hearing these stories but it also empowers me to continue to provide people REAL information about making money on my blog. We all MUST be careful!
Sep 21, 2013 2:20AM

They even run scams on TV - perfect example - the Gold Indian Nickel - and has 1oz right on the nickel.

The original $50 Buffalo gold piece is America's purest gold coin ever. It was the first one ever struck using .9999 — that's four nines! — pure 24k gold. Now you can reserve your own tribute copy of the $50 gold Buffalo, clad in 14 mg of pure gold. National Collector's Mint's private nonmonetary minting recreates James Earl Frasier's American Buffalo.How much is 14 mg of gold?

Well, there are 31.1 grams in a troy ounce, so we must divide 14 milligrams by 31.1 grams. A few keypunches tell us the coin is clad in 0.00045 troy ounces of gold (0.014 / 31.1 = 0.00045016).

How much is that worth?

Simple: Multiply that number by gold's current price of $1,325( down $650) this year alone - per ounce and you get 0.60¢ worth of gold

Sep 13, 2013 11:12AM
Everybody I heard of that gave money to Madoff was a Republican.
Sep 13, 2013 12:16PM

Classic Lady: I notice whenever an idea goes over your head you refer to those ideas

as "socialist or Marxist or communistic".With the far right there`s a commi under every rock.

Your messiah Rush Limbough told you so.

Sep 13, 2013 11:37AM
Classic Lady;I have charity work to do later today.You should try it some time.
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