How To Spot Stock Loss Recovery Scams

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: Blog

In September 2016 FINRA announced that it was providing information and assistance to investors. It describes three primarily signs of fraud, and urges readers to read their alerts to spot “stock loss recovery” scams.

This is timely since disreputable operators have changed tactics in the last few years; but they’re still targeting unsuspecting investors through misdirection, misinformation, and outright fraud. 

While the scams in the 1980’s and 1990’s included ‘pump and dumps,’ the scam in the last few years is targeting those who lost money in the market and, then offering to help them ‘recover’ those losses through legal channels” — by filing lawsuits, or more often trying to leverage settlements through arbitration. Sounds good, right? But often when it sounds too good, it usually is!

“While it’s very enticing to hear you might be able to recover money lost from a previous investment or investment scam, some investors end up losing even more money to unregistered con artists who run so-called ‘recovery scams,'” said Gerri Walsh, FINRA’s Senior Vice President of Investor Education.’ (Read the FINRA article here.)

Some of these ‘recovery specialists’ were previously stock brokers that were sanctioned, reprimanded and/or barred from the seciurities industy by FINRA (the securities regulatory body) for misrepresentation, and/or outright fraud. So they set up shop coming from the other side of the equation. But they’re the same disreputable people that mishandled their clients accounts before.

For example, I’ve been doing on-going investigation into Cold Spring Advisors Group, who refers to themselves as “the leading stock loss recovery firm in the nation” although I couldn’t find anything saying so except on their own website, their own press releases, and/or guest blogging. Guest blogs are misleading because readers see a glowing review of a company on a website or ezine — some of which appear like an independent magazine or news sources –, not realizing that the company being praised is the author (directly or through proxy) of the contributed article. Therfore when you read a great review on a site you don’t recognize, it is prudent to cross-reference to see if you can find anything about the company on any verifiable and credible independent source.

I first spoke to Louis Ottimo when he called to dissuade me from writing about Cold Spring Advisory Group this past summer (2016).  But, I’ll admit, that when I get a scent of a story worth investigating that I’m like a dog with a bone; and the more I dig the more bones I am finding with this one.

In one case [that Cold Spring Advisory Group handled] the lawyer they hired on behalf of the client didn’t even show up. In others they’ve lost cases where the client ends up incurring even more loss. In one final decision where the Claimants (represented by CSAG) filed a $123,000+ claim, the case was so mishandled that they were ordered to pay $7,500 in sanctions for failing to comply to a discovery order; compensatory damages in the amount of $37,500.00; with additional fees that included $1,474 initial filing fee; member surcharge $1,700,  member process fee $3,750, adjournment fees $2,850 and, $10,575 in session fees. Many of the Respondents’ sought and were granted expungment of the records. 

According to many stock loss recovery companies and law firms I have spoken to, they say “A client should be leery when they are told that their stock loss can be recovered, but are then asked for an upfront fee.” In one discussion I had inquiring about protocols, I noted that I was inveigating a firm that had done “X”, raising red flags, and the reply was “let me guess, you’re talking about “Cold Spring Advisory Group, right?”

It appears that Cold Spring advisory Group indeed does have a reputation, just not the one they publicize through their press releases to the public.  Moreover, as I mentioned in a previous article, the driving force behind Cold Spring Advisory Group is Louis Ottimo, a former stock broker who has been sanctioned and barred from FINRA. He has had several firms that have gone bankrupt, others with lawsuits against them, and he himself currently filed for bankruptcy, oddly listing Cold Spring Advisory Group and his wife as creditors. The only words that come to mind are “hmmm.”

If you suspect fraud, file a complaint using FINRA’s online Investor Complaint Center or call FINRA at (240) 386-HELP (4357).

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About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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