Broker Check

40 - How to Spot Red Flags in Investment Opportunities - A Guide to Avoiding Fraud

September 12, 2023


Investment opportunities are abundant, but so are the risks. While most investment vehicles are legitimate, some are fraudulent schemes designed to rob you of your hard-earned money. In this article, we'll explore red flags in both traditional and crypto investments, so you can make informed decisions.

Traditional Investment Red Flags

Affinity Fraud

Example: Imagine you're part of a local community group. One day, a member introduces an "exclusive" investment opportunity promising high returns. Because the offer comes from a trusted member, you might be tempted to invest without doing due diligence.

Red Flag: Affinity frauds exploit the trust within specific communities, religious groups, or ethnicities. Always perform your own research, even if the opportunity comes from within a community you trust. Read more from the SEC

Too Good to Be True

Example: An investment firm promises a 20% annual return with no risk involved.

Red Flag: If an investment promises high returns with little or no risk, it's likely a scam. Higher returns usually come with higher risks.

Pressure Tactics

Example: An advisor pressures you to invest quickly, stating the opportunity will disappear soon.

Red Flag: Legitimate opportunities won't vanish overnight. Take your time to research.

Lack of Documentation

Example: The investment firm avoids providing any written documentation about the investment opportunity.

Red Flag: Always insist on written documentation that details the investment opportunity. Scammers often avoid putting things in writing.

Crypto Investment Red Flags

Guaranteed High Returns

Example: A crypto trading platform promises a 50% return within a month.

Red Flag: Be skeptical of anyone promising guaranteed high returns in the crypto space, especially claims of little to no risk. Read more from the SEC

Complex Jargon

Example: A crypto investment firm uses complex technical jargon to explain their trading strategy.

Red Flag: Fraudsters often use complicated language or technology to confuse investors. If an investment is hard to understand, it could be a scam.

Unlicensed Sellers

Example: A crypto advisory service is not registered with any financial regulatory body.

Red Flag: Many crypto frauds involve unlicensed individuals or unregistered firms. Always check license and registration status.

Unsolicited Offers

Example: You receive an unsolicited email offering a crypto investment opportunity.

Red Flag: Be cautious of unsolicited offers related to crypto investments. Scammers may use fake names and provide U.S. phone numbers even if they are operating abroad.

Pressure Tactics

Example: A crypto trading platform creates a false sense of urgency, stating that the "offer ends soon."

Red Flag: Fraudsters may create a false sense of urgency. Always take your time to research before investing in crypto assets.


Investing is a critical component of financial planning, but it's essential to be aware of the red flags that could indicate fraud. Whether you're considering a traditional investment or diving into the world of digital assets, always do your due diligence. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.