Beware of investment schemes that seem too good to be true

Published 4:58 am Wednesday, July 1, 2009

By Staff
In the end, swindler extraordinaire Bernard Madoff got what he deserved — 150 years in jail — the harshest sentence U.S. District Judge Denny Chinn could impose.
Because there is no parole in federal prison, the 71-year-old Madoff will likely die there.
In sentencing the disgraced financier, Chinn cited the “extraordinary evil’ fraud that took a “staggering toll” on thousands of victims.
Madoff ran a massive Ponzi scheme since the early 1990s, eventually demolishing the life savings of many investors, wrecking charities and even shaking confidence in the U.S. financial system.
The Ponzi is a fraudulent investment scam in which funds paid in by late investors are used to pay artificially high returns to original investors, thus attracting more funds. It’s named after Charles Ponzi, who became notorious for using the technique after emigrating from Italy to the United States in 1903.
Ponzi schemes work because investors jump at the chance to earn extraordinary profits on investments, some not realizing until the end that their money has been lost.
Perpetrators of such schemes cite the need to keep the operation’s details secret to avoid having their so-called successful, innovative methods stolen.
It’s difficult to blame anyone for wanting to make hefty profits on their investments, but caution is certainly advisable with any investment program.
As the old adage says: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
So, please beware how and with whom you invest your hard-earned money. The sagging economy has no doubt enticed some people to desperately want to recoup their losses — and perhaps to invest with fingers crossed and eyes shut.
If Madoff and others like him have taught us anything, it’s to avoid get-rich-quick schemes. Our recession has battered enough people, so we don’t need to add to our woes by investing unwisely.