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Fraud

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    Bernie Madoff

    Back in 1998, my firm visited with a prominent money manager in New York City.

    At the time, we were trying to raise money to invest in less?than?investment?grade corporate debt. We attended the meeting and, to put it politely, we were given the brush off. That was no big deal - it happened all the time.

    But what that money manager said struck us as very odd...

    "Why should I give you guys money?" he asked. "You can't make me one point a month like my friend can."

    We responded, "It's not a 'point?a?month' world." And that was that.

    Several years later, in 2005, we were sitting in front of another group that said it was interested in raising money for us.

    The talks proceeded to the point where we were invited to meet with the company's founder and his top lieutenants.

    These gentlemen explained they were looking for another product to add to the offering of their "winningest" manager, who was producing "consistent monthly returns in the 80 to 100 basis-point range."

    That they were looking for a new product wasn't unusual. But the manager's purported returns sure as hell were. Stranger still, they wouldn't name the manager. The guy's identity was treated like a national security secret.

    What's more, these gentlemen stressed repeatedly that they could not consider a strategy that might potentially expose them to losses of as much as 2% a month. Of course, we told them it would be impossible to guarantee that there would never be monthly losses.

    Needless to say, the talks went nowhere.

    In 2008, barely three years after that bizarre, fruitless meeting, the "winningest" manager with the top-secret name was in handcuffs, perp-walked across every television and front page in the Western world.

    We'd had a brush, of the faintest kind, with Bernie Madoff.

    Because of simple common sense - the certain knowledge that it's not "a point-a-month world," and a grasp of the fact that any investment can lose money - neither we nor our clients were ever in danger from the con man's massive fraud.

    But the same can't be said of Madoff's 4,800 victims, of course, who lost close to $65 billion. On top of the financial ruin, at least two people killed themselves as a result of the Ponzi scheme, including Madoff's own son.

    Now here's the really horrible thing: You might think the book is closed on Bernie Madoff. But the story didn't end when they slammed the cell door shut on him at the Federal hoosegow at FCC Butner.

    Federal Prisoner No. 61727-054, and every single money manager unwittingly "infected" by him, are still costing unsuspecting investors millions of dollars.

    Let me show you why that's the case, and what you can do to make sure you're not among the next set of victims...

Article Index

What Is a Ponzi Scheme? [INFOGRAPHIC]

The-Ponzi-Pyramid-LARGE

Exactly what is a Ponzi scheme?

Our infographic will walk you through one of the most lucrative (and illicit) frauds of the past century...

Cybersecurity News: How to Keep Your Online Tax Data Safe

cybersecurity news

Cybersecurity news: This was just what the 29 million customers of tax preparation software TurboTax feared most - a fraud alert.

On Feb. 6 TurboTax, a unit of Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU), was forced to suspend its processing of state tax returns for 24 hours. In the preceding days Intuit and 19 states had noticed a spike in fraudulent state tax returns.

It means taxpayers need to get a lot more proactive about cybersecurity.

In this video, Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald talks about what taxpayers can do to protect themselves.

Stuxnet Virus Triggers New Era of Cyber Attacks – Is the U.S. Ready?

Due to threatening cyber attacks like the Stuxnet virus, the United States has made cybersecurity a top priority.

But are we still too vulnerable?

After all, cyber attacks have gotten more sophisticated, and more targeted to specific operations in the past couple of years.

They also often remain undetected for long periods of time. Less than 5% of cybersecurity attacks are discovered within hours, while almost 80% aren't found for weeks or months, according to Verizon's 2011 threat report.

The growing concern caused FBI Director Robert Mueller to warn last week that cyber attacks will become the No. 1 terrorist threat to the United States - which is why Congress is trying to pass the first U.S. cybersecurity law.

"We will suffer a catastrophic cyberattack," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-AL. "The clock is ticking."

The Stuxnet Virus

Much of the fear surrounding a U.S. cyber attack has escalated due to the Stuxnet virus.

The Stuxnet virus was first detected in June 2010 when a software security firm's Iranian client complained about a software glitch.

"As soon as we saw it, we knew it was something completely different. And red flags started to go up straightaway," Liam O Murchu, an operations manager at antivirus company Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC), told "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft in a March 4 segment on Stuxnet.

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Classic Cons: 10 Financial Scams Fair-Minded Investors Should Avoid

Online investment scams swindled over $559 million dollars from ordinary investors in 2009 alone… and the number of scammers hitting the market is rising daily. In this free report, find out exactly how these scammers are targeting your money… and exactly how to protect yourself.

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Combating the Cons: Where Should Victims of Financial Scams Turn?

Today's story "Classic Cons: 10 Financial Scams Fair-Minded Investors Should Avoid," describes just a few of the financial scams investors should watch out for. If you have reservations about a potential investment opportunity, or if you've been victimized by a financial scam, you might turn to one or more of the following agencies.

Better Business Bureau - With offices nationally, in every state and most large and mid-sized cities, the BBB can alert you to problems with local businesses, work-at-home programs, distributorships, sales routes you can buy and other one-on-one type rip-offs. They usually have lists of current online offers that are suspect or drawing lots of complaints. You can access the national BBB Web site at http://www.bbb.org/us/
and navigate to your home state or city chapter from there.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) - Information is available on all securities-related fraud issues and investment scams, and you can file your own personal complaints or suspicions online at http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. You can write them at: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education & Assistance, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20549-0213, or fax a complaint to 202-942-9634. You also can verify financials and regulatory standing on all publicly traded U.S. companies by accessing the SEC's EDGAR Database at: http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.

Your SEC complaint can be anonymous or you can provide only limited personal data. However, the more information you give them, the more likely they'll be able to help you. Either way, include specific details about how, why and when you were bilked with any contact info you have on the fraudulent person or company involved.

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Classic Cons: 10 Financial Scams Fair-Minded Investors Should Avoid

When Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager wrote the tune "Everything Old Is New Again," they were probably hoping for no more than a Top 40 hit. Instead, the song became an oft-recorded classic, mostly because the title proved a truism in so many areas - especially in the seamy world of financial fraud.

Indeed, over the past 40 years, only one new entry has been added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) roster of "Top 10" investment scams - the very broad category of "Internet fraud." The other financial rip-offs listed are merely new versions of tried and true swindles that have been around for decades or more - from Ponzi schemes and pyramid systems to phony stock offerings and commodity cons.

The big difference is that the one new category - Internet fraud (and the computers on which the Internet operates) - has greatly increased the frequency, speed and effectiveness of the other types of financial fraud, as well as exponentially increasing the scammers' take.

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Goldman's First-Quarter Profit Doubles to $3.46 Billion, Even as its Fraud Probe Takes on an International Twist

Investment-banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) - the target of a civil fraud case filed by U.S. securities regulators - yesterday reported that its first-quarter earnings nearly doubled, even as the probe against it took on an international twist.

The New York-based Goldman said it earned reported first quarter earnings of $3.46 billion today (Tuesday), or $5.59 a share, an increase of 91% from earnings of $1.66 billion, or $3.39 a share, for the same period a year ago. The earnings report came just days after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud case against the Wall Street financial heavyweight.

Goldman's earnings beat analysts' average estimates of $4.16 a share. Its investment bank income revenue rose to $12.78 billion, and its fixed-income, currency and commodities trading generated net revenue of $7.39 billion.

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We Want to Hear From You: How Do You Feel About the Status of U.S. Financial Reform?

When the Securities and Exchange Commission announced last Friday it was slapping Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE: GS) with fraud charges, Wall Street - facing financial reform - took a big gulp of reality.

Scores of traders hurried to sell off Goldman shares, causing the stock to sharply fall 12.8%.   Meanwhile, spectators on Main Street cheered the thought of a financial giant - that has faced scrutiny for housing market investments, executive bonuses and bailout money - finally having to face the firing squad.   

Money Morning readers' comments clearly expressed their negative feelings toward Wall Street, our government and the SEC: "Crooks, political snakes, fraudsters, soulless and self-interested leaders, running a corrupt nation..."

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SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud, Sending Its Stock, Reputation Tumbling

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday charged Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE: GS) with securities fraud in a civil suit, claiming the financial giant defrauded investors with a mortgage-related investment that was intended to fail.

The SEC accused Goldman Sachs of failing to disclose vital information on a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that was peddled to clients while the bank bet against its success, knowing the bank was likely to come out the winner. The SEC says Goldman used hedge fund Paulson & Co. to pick particularly risky securities for the product with a higher chance of collapsing.

The whole financial sector slid after the SEC's announcement. Goldman's stock fell over 12% Friday to close at $160.70 a share.

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As Financial Scams Go Global, Here’s How to Avoid Being Stung

[This is the sixth installment of a new series that is exploring ways for investors to recover from the U.S. financial crisis.]

Bernie Madoff's guilty plea to a decades-long $50 billion-plus Ponzi scheme pretty much guarantees the 70-year-old will have his likeness immortalized on the Mt. Rushmore of scammers.

The former NASDAQ chairman's December arrest - with collapsing U.S. and overseas stock markets as a backdrop - kicked up a firestorm that has forced investors to take a much-closer look at who was managing their investments. Scores of investors have lost their life savings, retirees found their nest eggs gone and countless charities discovered that they were essentially out of business; the cash that they once handed out to worthy causes had disappeared.

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