- Investment scams are on the rise globally, with South Africa experiencing numerous high-profile cases in recent years.
- Investors can protect themselves by conducting thorough research, verifying legitimacy, recognizing red flags, understanding risks, and investing only what they can afford to lose.
- Exercising caution and following these guidelines can help safeguard investors from falling victim to scams and financial losses.
The rise of online scams targeting unsuspecting investors seeking quick profits has become a global concern. In the United Kingdom, investment scams have surged by an alarming 193% over the past five years, according to Heloise Greeff, the director of Greeff Invest. Although obtaining comparable figures for South Africa proves challenging, numerous high-profile cases of investment scams have emerged in recent years.
Greeff emphasizes that while scams are rampant worldwide, investors can employ essential strategies to safeguard themselves from falling victim to these devious schemes.
- Conduct thorough research and invest within your knowledge base
To begin your research, Greeff suggests searching the name of a product or service along with the term ‘scam’ on Google. While this method may not always yield results, it serves as a practical starting point. Furthermore, avoid investments that are beyond your comprehension, as scammers may exploit your lack of understanding to deceive you.
- Verify legitimacy multiple times
Regardless of whether your research uncovers any warning signs, it is crucial to confirm the legitimacy of the entity you’re considering doing business with. In South Africa, legitimate platforms should be licensed by the Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA) and display their FSP number on all promotional materials. International platforms must adhere to comparable standards depending on their jurisdiction.
- Recognize red flags
Greeff advises that if something appears too good to be true, it most likely is. Promises of substantial returns, guarantees of rapid profits, and pressure to commit to investments are common red flags. A sound investment should remain viable in the short and long term, allowing you ample time to make informed decisions.
- Be cautious of unsolicited investment offers
Investors should also exercise caution when presented with unsolicited investment proposals, as these could be potential scams.
- Understand the risks involved
High returns typically entail a greater degree of risk. For instance, venture capitalists often anticipate that 25-30% of their startup investments will fail completely, with only a small fraction exceeding break-even returns. If an investment proposal promises significant returns without clearly outlining the associated risks, it’s best to steer clear.
- Invest only what you can afford to lose
One way to protect yourself is by investing only what you’re willing to lose entirely. By exercising caution and limiting expenditure, even if you fall for a scam, you won’t jeopardize your entire livelihood. Greeff cites the Gamestop saga and the cryptocurrency bubble as prime examples of people making risky investments, such as taking out loans or remortgaging homes, in the hopes of rapid and substantial returns. Although many of these individuals invested through legitimate platforms, they suffered significant losses when the markets crashed.
In conclusion, while the prevalence of investment scams in South Africa and around the world poses a serious threat, investors can employ a combination of research, verification, risk assessment, and caution to protect themselves and their finances from potential harm.