Ponzi scheme alert: How to know when it really is too good to be true

27 Sep

Author: Dawie de Villiers, CEO, Sanlam Employee Benefits

Publications:  Sanlam

Date Publiched: 27 September 2013

The extended economic downturn and interest rates hovering around the 5 or 6% mark make investment returns all too elusive right now. With many South Africans, in particular retirees, struggling to make ends meet, it is fertile ground for fraudulent investment schemes – known popularly as Ponzi schemes – to flourish.

The SA Reserve Bank recently launched a national campaign to increase awareness of pyramid or Ponzi schemes. The campaign encourages people to be careful when looking at potential investment opportunities.

South Africans seem to repeatedly entrust their hard-earned savings to operations which, at best, have short-term track records and, at worst, knowingly sell promises that they are unable to deliver on. Investors buy into these promises without fully understanding how these operators achieve their alleged returns.

Over the past six years the following schemes – which have had traumatic consequences for unsuspecting investors – come to mind: Fidentia, Leaderguard, Sharemax, King Group, the Herman Pretorius saga, and Defencex. There is a golden thread running through this list; each one promised a return far superior to that of the financial market, at a very low risk. In hindsight, such promises were too good to be true. But why do we continue to move from one such scandal to the next?

Spotting a Ponzi or pyramid scheme is actually relatively easy – here is a checklist ………

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