Fraudsters will try to steal your property, identity or tap into your bank or business to steal assets or money. Avoiding fraud in Costa Rica is really simple. To assist you in avoiding fraud in Costa Rica, we have put together a laundry list of various methods used by scammers here in Costa Rica to rip you off. Criminals will approach you through letters, a phone call, or via email. Cyber-crime is a principal priority risk for US residents and businesses. Typical scams include investment offers or opportunities to acquire new customers who you supply but never receive payment from. The most used here in Costa Rica is the email that is generated from “Phishing” on the internet. Typically, these come in the form of an email that tell you that you have won some kind prize. In the past the “lottery scam” was the most popular.
Phishing‘, or rogue emails asking for your personal or business banking details, are a common way to steal money. Read more about how to safeguard your assets and property against fraud.
Going After your life savings
Defense against fraud comes with being able to recognize the various different types of financial schemes that exist. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the following investment scams are commonly used to target Americans:
High-return or ‘risk-free’ investments
Costa Rica scammers, passing themselves off as brokers and investment advisers, recommend unsuitable products that don’t meet the investment objectives or financial situations of investors. Inappropriate recommendations might occur when a broker sells speculative, high- risk investments such as options, futures or penny stocks to individuals who are near retirement or are retired and have a low-risk tolerance.Pyramid schemes. In this classic scheme, fraudsters promise sky-high returns in a short period of time for doing nothing other than handing over money and getting others to do the same. Despite their claims to have legitimate products or services to sell, these deceivers spend much of the money on themselves and simply use money coming in from new recruits to pay off early stage investors. Although the products sold may be legitimate, eventually the pyramid will collapse. At some point the schemes get too big, the promoter cannot raise enough money from new investors to pay earlier investors and many people lose their money.
These are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who fooled thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s. Ponzi thought he could take advantage of differences between U.S. and foreign currencies used to buy and sell international mail coupons. Costa Rica had it’s own form of a Ponzi scheme which was carried out by the Villalobros Brothers, who scammed millions from unsuspecting investors. He told investors he could provide a 40 percent return in just 90 days compared with 5 percent for bank savings accounts. Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors, taking in $1 million during one three-hour period. Though a few early investors were paid off to make the scheme look legitimate, an investigation found that Ponzi had only purchased about $30 worth of the international mail coupons. Today, the Ponzi scheme continues to work on the “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul” principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses.
A promissory note is a type of debt that is similar to a loan or IOU and is used by a company to raise money. Typically, an investor agrees to loan money to the company for a set period of time. In exchange, the company promises to pay the investor a fixed return on the investment, typically principal plus annual interest. While promissory notes can be legitimate investments, those that are marketed broadly to individual investors often turn out to be nothing more than worthless paper. Most established companies have borrowing relationships with financial institutions, therefore this type of transaction among individuals is rare. Individual investors should exercise extreme caution with this type of investment.
Internet investment fraud
Internet investment fraud is similar to other fraud perpetrated over the phone or through the mail. Fraudsters use a variety of Internet tools, including bulletin boards, online newsletters, spam or chat rooms to spread false information. They also may build a sophisticated Web page to make their scam appear legitimate. The Internet has made off-shore scams very easy to implement and difficult to police because the perpetrators often reside outside of the U.S.
This fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of certain groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly or professional groups. Deceivers who promote affinity scams frequently are—or pretend to be—members of the group. They enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Often, the leaders themselves become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s scheme.
For more information on fraud in costa Rica see “Different types of Fraud in Costa Rica, or call 321-218-9209.