Retiring soon? Don't be a fraud victim

April 19, 2010

 By UTU GS&T Kim Thompson

A recent article on the UTU Web site, headlined “Ponzi Scheme Targets Retired L.A. Bus Drivers,” reminded me of the pitfalls that our members can face in having a secure retirement.

It seems you can’t watch the evening news, open a newspaper, or visit the Internet without hearing about identity theft, financial fraud, or investment schemes that have cost someone their retirement savings.

It is an unfortunate reality in our society, and everyone must be vigilant and on the lookout for these financial criminals.

While expecting the government to protect us from these con artists is reasonable, the fact remains that government regulation and enforcement agencies can do little to stop fraud from occurring. Most government involvement comes after the crime is committed and savings are lost.

The vast majority of investment advisers, investment firms and financial planners are trustworthy professionals. But an encounter with only one dishonest individual could devastate your retirement.

What can you do? Here are 10 steps suggested by best-selling author Charles Murray, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

  1. Every deal is a potential scam: Recognize that fraud is an act of deceit by one party intended to induce another to part with something of value.
  2. Map out your goals before shopping or investing: There’s a difference between “buying” and “being sold.”
  3. Avoid mixing business with pleasure: According to the National Institute of Justice, the attempt to defraud is more successful if a person knows or knows of the offender.
  4. Don’t get greedy: Remain calm and dispassionate.
  5. Be suspicious of “inside information,” “hot tips” and “one-time offers”: Why you instead of Tom-Dick-and-Harry?
  6. Educate yourself: Beware of getting all your information from the seller.
  7. Double check all facts:A cheat doesn’t want himself or his deal scrutinized.
  8. Don’t wilt when the heat is turned up: It takes a secure person to say “no” to pressure and manipulation.
  9. A promise is only as good as the person behind it.
  10. Scams copy the same methods used in legitimate business dealings: Spotting the difference can be difficult. Five tell-tale signs:
  •  Something is promised that borders between reasonable and “too good to be true”;
  •  Victims typically know or know of the swindler;
  •  A sense of urgency exists;
  •  A cheat doesn’t want himself or the deal scrutinized;
  •  High-pressure sales tactics are used.

There are many investment instruments including your own UTUIA annuities that are available in which to place retirement funds that can provide the necessary security and still provide a cash stream in retirement years.

In speaking with a financial adviser, find out what their experience has been. Check their credentials and demand other client references. And never write a check directly to an individual. Your payment should be to the investment firm or to the investment fund itself. A request for direct payment to an individual is a big red flag!

Remember, your retirement funds represent a lifetime of savings, and there is no “do-over.”