The US Securities and Exchange Commission has never been particularly friendly toward the world of binary options. Indeed, the US government has often been rather tyrannical when it comes to regulating private investing activities. Nonetheless, they do have some quality literature and some good advice when it comes to trading. While perusing their materials on binary options trading, I came across three different forms of fraud the SEC identifies. The SEC does not tell investors outright to avoid trading binary options, but they do recommend that investors become aware of potential problems and do their best to avoid becoming the victims of fraud.
1. Brokers That Block Withdrawals
The first category of fraud that the SEC identifies is quite simple. You deposit money with a binary options company, and then you try to withdraw money, and you cannot. Sometimes brokers involved with these kinds of scams will even go out of their way to encourage you to deposit more money before you discover they are not going to be giving it back. They may aggressively call you over the phone and attempt to convince you of the benefits of adding more funds. Then you will attempt to withdraw your money, and find your withdrawal orders repeatedly cancelled, and your phone calls and emails ignored. You will try and try to get your money, only to be pointed toward obscure passages in the terms and conditions—or you will simply fail to find anyone at the company who will communicate with you at all.
How to avoid this type of scam:
- Do your research before you even think of depositing money with any company. Read customer reviews and search the web for complaints. Customers often report scammy behavior on sites like RipOffReport.com.
- Read ALL the terms and conditions and the FAQ thoroughly. Be aware of any minimum withdrawal thresholds.
- Deposit the minimum amount of money you can get away with above that threshold and do a test withdrawal before you get into trading and building up your account.
- If you receive pushy phone calls telling you to deposit more money, try to remove your existing funds immediately and look for another broker.
2. Identity Theft Scams
Some brokers not only try to steal the money you deposit or win, but also try to steal your identity (and ultimately, more money). All brokers collect information on their customers, which can make this a challenge to avoid. You may provide your credit card information when you deposit or withdraw money. You might also be asked to verify your identity by faxing copies of your driver’s license or credit card. Or you might be asked for your social security number. The SEC recommends you do not comply with any requests for faxes like these. If in doubt, if you do not want to use your credit card with a company you are not familiar with, you may want to go with an online payment system which can help protect your identity.
Not all brokers that request personal information are scammers (after all, even legitimate companies allow you to use a credit card), but some are, and it is better to play it safe. Be especially wary of companies that do not ask for personal information when you sign up and deposit money, but demand it before you withdraw.
How to avoid this scam:
- As always, research any company you are dealing with thoroughly before you deposit money, and see if there is any evidence online that they are scammers.
- Check the FAQ and terms of service for information about the deposit and withdrawal procedures. If you have any doubts, call up customer service and verify that you will not be asked to compromise your identity to withdraw money from your account.
This youtube.com video will also explain how to avoid all types of Online Identity Theft
3. Brokers that manipulate trades
The third type of scheme is a little more subtle than the other two, but it can be just as costly over time. Brokers sometimes manipulate trading software in order to generate losses. The most common version of this con is a situation where a trade expires an arbitrary amount of time after it was set to, and then the trade suddenly expires out of the money. Traders complain, asking for their winnings, and the broker shrugs and says that they are not subject to fault for technical errors. This may happen repeatedly before a trader realizes there is a problem.
Other aspects of a trade may also be manipulated. Payouts may change suddenly for no obvious reason. Even prices may be altered. Be on the lookout for these types of scams, but do not forget that the most common reason to lose a trade is usually because you did something wrong, and not your broker (in other words, don’t foist responsibility for your own mistakes onto your broker).
How to avoid this scam:
- Once again, read reviews! Always make sure the reviews you are reading are left by third parties, and not by the broker or their affiliates. After a while, you will find it easy to distinguish between the two. The more detailed the review and the more comprehensive the information, the better. If you can find actual pros and cons, that is another sign you are looking at a real review.
- Be mindful of your broker’s actions while you are trading. If you notice something unusual going on with expiry times, there is likely a problem with the broker. Once may be a technical error (still unlikely), but twice? You know the old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Withdraw your money if you can, and find another broker that is not manipulating trades.
Binary options is not a scam by itself—it is just one way of trading financial instruments. But there are a lot of con artists out there who are preying on newbie traders. It only takes a few minutes to do your homework on a binary options company. Another step you can take is to talk to a customer service representative and see how you are treated. If you call up a company and the representative is overly pushy, it may be a sign to move on. If you receive polite customer service and transparent information, you may have found an honest, trustworthy binary options broker. Not sure where to start? Here is our list of trusted binary options brokers.