NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Investing is hard enough without walking into a bear trap set by an unscrupulous fraudster. Crooks create false account statements, make wild performance claims and operate elaborate Ponzi schemes in order to get money out of your pocket and into theirs. If you're the victim of such a crime, what are your chances of getting your money back?
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued an investor bulletin explaining the ways in which conned consumers can attempt to recover assets lost to criminal investment scams. The good news: there are a number of ways to recover your money. The bad news: you are likely to recover only a portion of your loss – and be prepared for a lengthy process.
"Not all harmed investors will be able to recover money, and many of those who recover money receive less, often substantially less, than their losses from the securities fraud," the SEC says. "In addition, even when harmed investors are able to recover money, the process for distributing the money to harmed investors may take a long time."
If an SEC investigation into securities fraud is successful, enforcement action is initiated through the court system or by an agency administrative proceeding. In addition to attempting to reclaim the proceeds from the fraud on behalf of victims, often penalties and interest are charged; the court or the SEC will determine the distribution of these assets. In other cases, a receivership is formed to recover and manage the proceeds of criminal collections. In fiscal year 2013, the SEC collected more than $1.6 billion in fines and recovered investment assets.
When a brokerage firm fails, investors' assets are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporatio