Protecting yourself from scams during the tax season

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - With tax season upon, more scams and rip-offs are happening but making sure it does not happen to you is important.

Betty Shelton's 91-year-old mother was one of ten victims of Mark Kirchoff, a financial advisor  now serving fifteen years in prison for theft and fraud. Kirchoff stole more than $250,000 from his elderly and disabled victims.

Kirchoff sold Shelton's mother a $123,000 annuity.

"Really, I didn't understand it. I mean it went on and on and on and he assured me it was a good deal, and then Leslie looks at it and says, it's a 32-year annuity," said Shelton.

Kirchoff then sold Shelton's mother a CD.

"He said I can get a CD for my special people for 4.2%," said Shelton.

Shelton says she got suspicious because Kirchoff kept coming around, asking questions about her mom's assets and then he dropped off the certificate for the CD.

"It looked like something you'd print up on Word, on the computer, so that was when I contacted First Palmetto Bank," said Shelton.

The manger at the First Palmetto Bank in South Carolina checked the CD number and told Shelton the CD was a fake.

"So I called Mark, and I said, please put my mind at ease! They tell me that this is no good. He said, 'Well my best friend is investing it for us, the president of the bank and everybody down there don't know about it," said Shelton.

Shelton did not believe Kirchoff so she called a friend of her's who is an insurance agent.

She looked over everything Kirchoff had given her and then call Kirchoff herself.

"She literally called him every other day and just bugged him, and threatened to call the insurance commission. It took about two weeks, and he wired the money back into my mom's account. THEN Leslie called the insurance commission, "said Shelton.

Shelton's mother was lucky she had someone looking out for her and was able to get all of her money back, but you or your loved one may not be so lucky.

Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • Pushy advisors. No legitimate advisor will try to bully you or rush you into investing in something without checking it out first.
  • Overly complex product. If you don't understand what you are buying, do not buy it. If the sales person does not want to explain it until you want to explained, walk away.
  • Missing documentation. If the advisor cannot produce a prospectus, the product may not be a registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Do not trust anyone who guarantees certain returns. All investments carry some degree of risk. If the investment's returns don't fluctuate with the market, particularly when the market is fluctuation quite a bit, that is a bad sign.

Fox19 Financial Analyst Nathan Bachrach said that you should always check out you advisor using the Securities and Exchange Commission and FINRA's free broker check search engines, even if you know the person. Bachrach said in the case of Bernie Madoff, a simple search on him would have found many red flags in his record.

Shelton's mother, who is in failing health, does not know the extent of what Kirchoff did with her money, but her daughter does and she is happy that he is in a place where he cannot do it again.

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