Avoiding the Latest Silver Generation Scams

Silver generation investors are susceptible these days, and the con artists know it. Scams are proliferating that focus on promising to help recover the losses in your nest egg. You’re hearing a lot of pitches that are heavy with rhetoric about Wall Street crooks, government bailouts, high inflation, and currency collapses.

Investor fears about these things are legitimate as is the desire to recover losses. But don’t fall for scams that use these pitches to lure you into worse deals. Learn about the substance of the deals and you’ll see that most of them are questionable investments or outright frauds.

Using home equity

Many cons convince silver investors to tap their home equity for investments. In general, older homeowners tend to have a lot of home equity and are able to obtain loans to tap it. A wide range of fraudulent investments rely on investors’ withdrawing home equity. They tend to be private investments, such as promissory notes, partnerships, annuities, and certificates of deposit at unconventional banks or nonbanks. These investments are not registered with any government agency and don’t provide full disclosure of details. You should be especially wary of any pitch that encourages you to use home equity to invest.

Settling life insurance

It is legitimate for an insurance policy owner to sell the rights to a policy that no longer is needed to someone else. The transaction is known as a life insurance settlement, and it’s been a growing sector the last few decades. Life settlements can be a good investment for sophisticated investors who know how much to pay for a policy and build a diversified portfolio of policies.

Unfortunately, many life settlement deals sold to individual investors aren’t working out well. Some of the deals are outright frauds. The person organizing the investments never buys insurance policies. In other cases inexperienced organizers simply pay too much for the policies, resulting in mediocre returns and capital locked up for many years with no ability to predict payouts.

My recommendation is to consider selling to investors any unneeded life insurance policies you own, but don’t be an investor who buys the policies.

Precious metals

The prices of gold and other precious metals are rising. Gold recently hit a record high. Naturally rising prices attract investors, and investors are looking for new and profitable ways to buy the metals. In many cases investors simply are paying too much for metals and coins. To avoid overpaying for a precious metals investment, shop around.

The major precious metals scams often involve firms that offer to buy bullion and store it. Some don’t buy the bullion. They are running Ponzi schemes and hoping investors never want to cash in their gold.

When you want to buy bullion but don’t want to store it yourself, favor firms that have been in the business a while, have audits from known firms, and provide references. An alternative is a local firm you can visit and see where the gold is stored. Even with these firms, be sure they have audits and have been in business for a while. There’ve been frauds where firms show investors stored gold. It turned out they bought only enough gold to dupe investors or painted other metals to look like gold.

Coins sales also can be scams. Sometimes the sellers simply take advantage of inexperienced investors by overpricing their coins. Other times coins are misrepresented. You need some knowledge of coins or the aid of a trusted expert to avoid losing money on coin purchases.

Green deals

Alternative energy, or green energy, is one of today’s buzzwords. Investors are looking to profit from energy sources that aren’t based on fossil fuels, and promoters are offering deals. It’s tough for you as an outside investor to tell the scams from the legitimate profit opportunities. (Keep in mind even the legitimate investments in this area are risky and must overcome many hurdles to pay off.) Filtering solid prospects from scams or hopeless dreams is especially hard if you don’t have a science or engineering background. When you have the necessary technical background, the company still isn’t likely to give you enough access to its proprietary processes or ideas to evaluate whether or not it is a realistic opportunity.

The best advice for green deals is to let an experienced, solid professional firm vet the deals for you. For most of us, that means investing through a mutual fund.

Currency gains

Forecasts of collapses in the euro and the dollar are followed by strategies for profiting from the collapses. Some of the strategies are good, but some are outright scams.

Don’t invest in futures and options yourself. Use only an experienced adviser or fund with a proven long-term record. But take a look at the fees before investing. You’ll be taking a lot of risk, and after fees you may not have high enough returns to justify the risk.

Conservative ways to invest from currency changes are to buy certificates of deposit or government bonds or open savings accounts denominated in a currency. Legitimate banks and other financial services firms offer these products. But some scams pretend to offer them and take investors’ money. Invest only with established, regulated, audited firms. Exchange-traded funds also are a way to profit from currency swings.