Energy is supposed to be the new frontier in investing, right? But we've learned some con men are going to creative lengths to rob people of their money. Tony Stuecken knows all too well.
“A lot of my family has been pushed out of retirement and back to work. They worked their whole lives for this money just to have someone rip it out of their hands,” he said.
Stuecken's family invested more than $40,000 in what they thought was a revolutionary product.
“He proposed to develop, manufacture and market an electronic device that he stated would overcome electrical fluctuations in HVAC units in third world countries,” explained Mark Hallisey, a US Postal Inspector.
Basically the scammer said this machine would generate energy very cheaply and everyone would want one. He called it the "Boydoplex" and even showed investors pictures of the product. Close to 80 people believed it and invested more than $3 million. They expected a 15 percent return. The problem was the pictures were bogus and the device didn't exist.
“At first, I didn't believe it was a scam, everything they put together they presented to us, everything seemed real,“ said Stuecken.
Postal inspectors began tracking the case and arrested 55-year-old David Grammer for masterminding the scheme.
“The suspect used the money solely for individual personal expenses. A new house… on a lake, several automobiles, he started… a farming business, bought tractors, land things of that nature,” said Hallisey.
Victims says the scam took a serious toll.
“The financial burden is unbearable… a lot of my family is depressed after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Stuecken.
Grammer was sented to 78 months in prison after pleading guilty to two felony counts of fraud.
To protect yourself from investment scams, the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau advises if someone is trying to get you to invest in something, turn the tables and ask questions. The agency says a legitimate investment professional must be properly licensed.
Also, be skeptical of secrets. It's a red flag if the person promoting the deal says, "Don't tell anyone else..." Experts warn that someone who is legitimate won't ask you to keep secrets.
And you'll want to figure out an exit strategy, too. Knowing how you'll end the conversation in advance makes it easier to leave the conversation, even if the pressure starts rising.
Remember, when making an investment, there's no urgency to race against the clock. Take your time and make an informed decision.