The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) and the North American Securities Administration Association (NASAA) have jointly issued an Investor Alert about the potential risks associated with investing in self-directed IRAs. You can find this short PDF here. http://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts/sdira.pdf In addition, here is information you should consider if you’re concerned you may be a victim of self-directed IRA fraud.
Verify the information in the self-directed IRA. Many of the investments that can be purchased through one of these financial instruments can be hard to value, since they are illiquid. Therefore, the statements provided will often state their value as the price you paid for it, or what the promoter is valuing it at. However, that does not necessarily reflect what the investment could actually be sold for on the open market, which may be a much lower amount.
Was your choice to get a self-directed IRA the result of an unsolicited investment opportunity from a total stranger, or even a friend? As stated previously, self-directed IRAs are legal and there are some which may produce high rates of return for investors. However, if someone, unsolicited, asked you to invest in such a financial instrument red flags should be raised to determine if they are a legitimate individual, or instead a fraudster.
Were you promised a guaranteed gain or rate of return, or a low-risk, high reward investments? Similarly, when someone promises you something too good to be true, it usually is. Almost nothing in life is guaranteed, and if there were legitimate low risk, high reward investments out there lots more people would be rich than are today. Too good to be true promises such as these should also raise red flags in your mind, to investigate further about whether you are the victim of self-directed IRA fraud.
Is the self-directed IRA promoter registered in the state they are doing business, and in addition are the investments they are selling licensed? Many states, including Indiana, have laws and regulations in place which require those selling securities to be registered with the state. Further, only certain types of investments are deemed registered securities. While unregistered securities are permitted to be included in self-directed IRAs they are much riskier, and their inclusion may still violate state law, if not federal law. It is best to make sure what you are purchasing through your self-directed IRA is licensed, and the person you’re purchasing it from is registered to sell you these types of products.
Have you contacted another professional yet for a second opinion, such as an investment advisor, trusted accounat, or attorney? Many of the investments that can be purchased through a self-directed IRA are not ones that can be purchased through a traditional IRA, generally for the reason that they are even more inherently risky, illiquid, or complex. Therefore, before investing in such financial instruments it is a good idea to get a second opinion from an independent professional, such as an investment advisor or attorney, to help you determine whether this is a good investment for you.
If you think you may be a victim of fraud using this financial instrument you should act quickly to try to minimize further losses, and potentially try to reclaim money you’ve lost already. To do this, it is best to contact a knowledgeable securities fraud attorney in your area to see if you have a case, and determine the best course of action for you.
If you have lost money in a fraudulent investment scheme involving a self-directed IRA or a third-party custodian or trustee, or have information about one of these scams, you should contact Starr Austen & Miller LLP to learn more about the self-directed IRAs and report your experiences.
[Sources: SEC office of Investor Education and Advocacy, Investor Alert: Self-Directed IRAs and the Risk of Fraud, found at www.investor.gov; Indiana Secretary of State Announces Guilty Plea and Sentencing in Retirement Scam dated 11/10/11; Indiana Securities Fraud Case Highlights Risks of Self-Directed IRAs, from thewallstreetfraudblog.com; and Self-Directed IRAs’ pitfalls highlighted in fraud case, written by Rebecca S. Green, in The Journal Gazette]