U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have accused Iran of orchestrating devastating strikes on Saudi oil installations over the weekend.Politicsread more
"The president is right to make this the center point of the rising and sustained trade conflict," says Sen. Chris Coons.Politicsread more
"We're gonna take this meeting by meeting. We're not on a preset course," Clarida told CNBC's Sara Eisen during an interview Friday on "Squawk on the Street."The Fedread more
More than 400 Chinese products will be temporarily exempted from tariffs that President Donald Trump's administration imposed last year.China Economyread more
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted that it's a "whole new world starting in November," with the launch of Apple TV+, Disney+ and other new streaming services.Technologyread more
President Donald Trump sarcastically tweeted that New York City "is devastated" by Mayor Bill de Blasio's exit from the 2020 presidential race. Two other Democratic mayors,...2020 Electionsread more
The United Auto Workers union and General Motors are making progress on their labor contract talks, however there remain "many" outstanding issues, according to a union leader...Autosread more
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has been given more than one opportunity over the past two weeks to clarify her response to a key question about her...Politicsread more
Apple will get a taste of whether upgraded features on the new iPhone 11 are enough to lure shoppers to retail stores around the world as the new smartphones officially hit...Technologyread more
James Bullard said he dissented on this week's Fed decision to lower rates by a quarter percentage point because he didn't think the cut was big enough.The Fedread more
Joshua Harris, Apollo Global Management's co-founder, has a message for private equity's naysayers in Washington.Delivering Alpharead more
The Securities and Exchange Commission today unveiled new charges against five unregistered brokers in connection with a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that came to light late last year.
The five individuals and their companies sold more than $243 million in unregistered securities to more than 1,600 individual investors, according to the SEC.
The individuals allegedly promoted the firm's "safe and secure" investments at seminars, a Florida university class, in newspaper ads and on the radio.
The problem: The brokers were not allowed to sell securities and were not registered as broker-dealers, the regulator said.
That did not stop them from picking up millions of dollars in unlawful commissions, the SEC said.
The investors have yet to have their principal returned and are not receiving monthly interest payments, since the firm these professionals worked for filed for bankruptcy.
In a Ponzi scheme, the perpetrator generally takes money from one set of investors to pay off others, often earlier investors, or simply diverts the proceeds for private gain.
The case is a cautionary tale.
"The frightening truth about fraud is scammers scam and liars lie," said Gerri Walsh, senior vice president of investor education at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which regulates brokerage firms.
Here are the precautions you should take to protect yourself from become a victim, according to the regulators whose job it is to catch these scams.
Before you begin working with financial professionals, check their registration records to verify that they are, in fact, licensed and have not had any egregious complaints lodged against them.
If the financial professional does not show up in a search, you should think twice about working with him or her, said Lori Schock, director of the SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy.
"Most of the retail-facing fraud that we see is committed by those who are not registered," Schock said. "It is unlicensed people selling unregistered products."
You should also look at records periodically to check up on a financial professional.
"If you have been working with the person for a while ... go ahead and take a peek and see what you see," FINRA's Walsh said.
Not all disclosures that show up on a professional's or firm's record are a red flag, said Walsh. But they should be a conversation starter.
You should be wary of investments that are overly complicated.
"If a retail investor can't understand the investment, they ought not pursue that opportunity," said Owen Donley, chief counsel at the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at the SEC.
All the information about the investment, such as through filings made with the SEC, should be readily available. If a financial professional won't make investment paperwork available, that's a "huge red flag," Donley said.
Be sure to ask a number of questions, including "How do I pay you?" and "How do you get paid?" Walsh said.
The answers could include commissions or fees, but there might be some other method for payment, such as a sales contest or a proprietary product particular to that firm.
Use that information to assess whether the firm is a fit for your risk and liquidity needs, Walsh said.
Monthly statements should show any transactions you made, including the amount.
"Especially in down markets, it can be depressing to look at your statements," Walsh said. "But you have to do it. You have to keep tabs."
If you see something you did not authorize, you should call your broker and send a written complaint to the firm. You should also notify the appropriate securities regulator.
Investors should also do periodic checks of securities they own to see that the prices match up with what appears on their statements, Walsh suggested.
If a promise sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. That particularly goes for offers that require you to act immediately or success rates that are too good.
"If someone offers you a guaranteed high rate of return, they're lying," said Donley. "You're probably looking at a fraud."
Sales pitches that lead you to believe that the offer is only available for a limited time or restricted to a special group of people should also be a red flag.
And watch for any information that comes with free offers, such as educational seminars that provide lunch or mail offers that include trinkets. Those will make you more likely to respond.
"You have a tendency to believe this person and trust this person," Walsh said. "The one thing we always say about free meals is you don't have to bite on what's being offered."
If you have any doubt about an investment, check into it before you put your money in.
"The criminals spend the money, so even when we nail them, the money's often gone," said Donley.
More from Personal Finance: