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Investments tend to go up and down over time. Be skeptical about an investment that regularly generates positive returns regardless of overall market conditions. Unregistered investments.
Ponzi schemes typically involve investments that are not registered with the SEC or with state regulators. Unlicensed sellers. Federal and state securities laws require investment professionals and firms to be licensed or registered.
Most Ponzi schemes involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms. Secretive, complex strategies.
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Issues with paperwork. Account statement errors may be a sign that funds are not being invested as promised. Difficulty receiving payments.
Ponzi scheme promoters sometimes try to prevent participants from cashing out by offering even higher returns for staying put. In the International Universal Postal Union created International Reply Coupons as a way for people in different countries to send return postage to each other.
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Charles Ponzi, whose name came to symbolize the financial pyramid scheme. Ponzi figured that if he could work out a way to deal the coupons in a high quantity, he could become rich by simply buying and re-selling them. Ponzi was good to his word at first, using funds from new investors to pay off the old.
As his popularity and number of investors grew, postal inspectors became suspicious of how he was able to ensure the returns he promised. Inspectors were sure that he was doing something illegal, but despite the fact that he sent messages to his investors through the mail, they could not arrest him for fraud, because at that point no one was complaining of being cheated. These early funders were still flush with money pouring in from new investors. An example of the type of international reply coupon Ponzi used in his scheme.
Courtesy of Postal Inspector Tripp Brinkley An example of the type of international reply coupon Ponzi used in his scheme. Courtesy of Postal Inspector Tripp Brinkley.