No One is Safe from Scammers
Usain Bolt made the news last month, but not for breaking an Olympic record or obtaining a new endorsement. The eight-time Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter was the victim of fraud, proving that no matter how famous you are or how many people you have working for you, you have to remain diligent in overseeing your investments.
Usain Bolt lost $12.7 million while his money was invested in a private investment firm, Kingston-based Stocks and Securities Limited. Bolt was not the only victim; the fraud lasted 13 years and impacts elderly clients and government agencies. On January 12, 2023, SSL said in a statement that it became aware of recent fraudulent activity committed by a former employee and started taking steps to secure its customer’s assets.
Here are some celebrities who were scammed by people in their inner circle.
Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, along with so many others, lost an undisclosed amount as victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Sting lost $9.8 million when his financial advisor of 15 years siphoned money out of his accounts.
Uma Thurman lost millions due to the fraudulent actions of her financial planner. Turns out the financial planner scammed most of his clients, including Sylvester Stallone, Neil Simon, and Al Pacino, amassing $33 million of their money. For his illegal activities, he was convicted and sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison.
John Elway fell victim to a Ponzi scheme launched by a hedge fund manager. By the time authorities caught up with the alleged con man, less than $10 million was left from the $71 million investors contributed.
Celebrities are not the only people who get scammed. If you are not diligent, it can happen to you. USA.gov has put together a list of common scams that we should all look out for. These can help you understand how to protect investments.
- COVID-19 scams, rumors, and price gouging: Scammers attempt to obtain your personal information, such as social security numbers and other personal information, or ask for money – either fake fees for providing your stimulus checks or providing you with your money early. Scammers can impersonate a military service member who asks for money to offset medical or travel expenses incurred due to COVID.
- Banking scams: These scams can include unsolicited check fraud in which you receive a random check that if cashed authorizes the purchase of items or signs you up for a loan. You can also fall victim to automatic withdrawal fraud in which a scammer sets up automatic withdrawals from your bank account to qualify you for a free trial or to receive a prize that never comes. Be on the lookout for phishing scams that allow access to your bank accounts or email requests for gift cards that appear to be coming from someone you know from an email address that looks a bit off.
- Telephone scams: Telephone scammers try to steal your money or personal information through phone calls from real people, robocalls, or text messages. Callers often make false promises, such as opportunities to buy products, invest your money, or receive free product trials. Scammers may also call with threats of jail or lawsuits if you don’t pay them.
- Census-related fraud: Someone will call you under the pretense they work for the Census Bureau in an attempt to steal your personal information.
- Government scams: Government grant scammers try to get your money by guaranteeing you a grant for costs like college or home repairs. They ask for your checking account information and say they will “deposit the grant money into your account” or withdraw a “one-time processing fee.” In reality, individuals are rarely awarded government grants. They usually go to state and local governments, universities, and other organization to help pay for research and projects that will benefit the public.
- Investment scams: These usually promise high returns for low risk. Investment scams target all investors, whether you are new to investing or have been doing so for years. View the SEC website for information on different types of investment fraud and how to protect yourself from scammers.
- Lottery and sweepstakes scams: According to the FTC, prize scammers try to get your money or personal information through fake prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams. Many claim that you won a prize, but must pay a fee to collect it. Others require you to provide personal information to enter a “contest.” These scams may reach you by postal mail, email, phone call, robocall, or text message.
- Charity scams: Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of the public’s generosity, tragedies, and disasters. Before giving to a charity you are unfamiliar with, verify the charity with the Better Business Bureau or the IRS’s database of 501(c)3 organizations to find out if an organization is a registered nonprofit organization.
- Pyramid schemes: According to the SEC, “[a] pyramid scheme is an investment fraud in which new participants’ fees are typically used to pay money to existing participants for recruiting new members.” Pyramid schemes may appear in the form of a business opportunity, such as a multi-level marketing program. Pyramid schemes collapse when there are not enough new recruits to pay earlier investors.
- Ponzi schemes: Similar to a pyramid scheme, “[a] ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that pays existing investors with funds collected from new investors.” Fraudsters guarantee a high rate of return on your investment with little or no risk. However, rather than investing the money, the organizer uses it to pay the earlier investors while keeping some for themselves. The scheme will collapse without new investors.
Remember to stay diligent. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. And, only interact with reputable people whose legitimacy you can verify.
Additional resources to help you identify suspicious or fraudulent activity include: