FBI warns of Ponzi scams

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," is the message the FBI is hoping Richmonders will remember when considering investments. Agents are teaming with the NAACP to try and protect citizens from potential Ponzi schemes.

Imagine working your entire life, saving money for your retirement and in a flash you've lost everything. It's becoming more common these days as scam artists use promises of big returns to lure unsuspecting investors to financial ruin.

"Risk-free investment!" "Guaranteed returns!" "Wall Street insider information!" If those slogans sound enticing, you're not alone. Thousands of people fall for Ponzi schemes every day.

"You'll find out down the road that you just lost $100,000 before you even knew what happened," said FBI Agent Michael Schuler.

Ponzi schemes begin when someone offers you an opportunity, promising big returns. Instead of actually investing your money, the scammer uses it to pay back the original investors. No new money ever comes in.

"The person taking the investments can't keep it going forever," Schuler said.

Eventually the funding runs out and your money is gone for good. Considering how many people fall for these scams, the NAACP was hoping to see a huge turnout at its town hall meetings as it tries to educate the public. Wednesday night, that just didn't happen. The people who showed up are community organizers who say they'll circulate the tips.

"We've been trying to do more public information and education to enlighten people so they don't get taken for their life savings or their retirement," said King Salim Khalfani.

Keep in mind, no one can guarantee any returns on an investment. If you're suspicious, follow that instinct, instead of the fantasy of big bucks. The FBI is hoping everyone will remember it's better to be safe, than sorry.

If you think you're being conned you can call the FBI's Richmond office at 261-1044. You can also sign up for email scam alerts by clicking here.

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