How to spot an investment scam

August 2, 2013

Wisebread is a pretty great website. They post tons of articles on saving money, being frugal, finding deals, getting more out of life for less cash, and occasionally, scams.

They ran a good one not too long ago: 5 Sure-Fire Signs of an Investment Scam. It’s a topic I haven’t explored too deeply yet, and it’s one I’d like to write more about. For the time being, go read their article and learn from it.

Now think about some iffy investment “opportunities” you’ve heard of. How many of Wisebread’s signs did it fall under?

My favorite investment scam is the Iraqi Dinar scam that’s been running riot for several years (and I mean “favorite” in the most sarcastic way possible, by the way). For the most part, these schemes hit all five points.

Absolute promises that the currency will revaluate? Check. “Opportunity” for beyond-massive profit, yet being offered to everyone in the universe equally? Got it. Affinity groups? Yes, you hear about this stuff in social circles. Business practices? Well, selling a supposed investment without an actual license to do so by calling it a “collector’s item?” How sketchy do they have to be? And look at the comments on any article exposing this scam for what it is: hundreds of people insisting that the author (even when said author is an expert writing for a credible source) is the biggest idiot that ever lived in the history of ever. Some of those may be victims clinging to hope, but a lot of them are people running Iraqi Dinar scams attempting to discredit any suggestion that what they’re doing is tantamount to fraud.

Do you have an obvious example of an investment scam? Fire away in the comments! But no calling me stupid for thinking knowing the Dinar thing is fraud. Those comments won’t get through at all.


The irony of online banner advertisements

November 9, 2012

Earlier this year, an article about the Iraqi Dinar Scam appeared on Forbes.com. Here’s a screenshot:

First, let me go on record here: I vehemently disagree with the author’s use of the word “stupid” in the title of this article. It’s arrogant. Falling for a scam doesn’t make you stupid; it is my deeply-held belief that everyone is vulnerable to scams. Every single one of us has some magic combination of situation, emotion and opportunity capable of leading us straight into Scamsville. My goal with this site has always been to eliminate as many of those possibilities as possible; to make your own scam-combination-lock as difficult to decipher as possible. But we’ve all got a tell. Somewhere. I can’t emphasize this enough.

But this particular scam isn’t really my focus here. Yes, the Iraqi Dinar Investment Thing is very much a scam. The fact that entities selling it have to classify their businesses as a service for collectors of exotic currency (and not as a foreign exchange investment) to get around regulations should tell you something. Now you know. Go forth and tell others.

No, my focus today is to point out one of the absurd ironies of online publishing and the keyword-based online advertisements that accompany it. Because, on the very same page as the article shown above, this advertisement appeared, plain as day:

Yep. An advertisement for a business involved in the very scam the article spends several hundred words discussing.

No, I didn’t click on it. I don’t trust these businesses enough to even expose my computer to their websites. So I can’t give you any further details on this particular “offer,” but I can assure you: it involves you paying a few thousand dollars for a mound of paper that’s going to be worth the same nothing ten years from now that it’s worth today.

So here’s your takeaway for this Friday: for the most part, just don’t click on advertisements that appear on websites, even when those websites are reputable (I mean, Forbes wasn’t exactly founded a week ago, you know?). Even if the ads seem relevant to what you’re reading.

In fact, lots of web browsers now have plugins available that will block banner ads from view altogether. Adblock for Google Chrome is popular. I used it in the past, but since I have to occasionally write articles on this stuff, I felt it was better for me to be able to see the ads. There was even a variant called “Catblock” at one point, which replaced ads with pictures of totally adorable cats. Which is just awesome.


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