What-Do-Investor-Fraud-Victims-Have-In-Common.jpg (2149×1159)The rise of technology that makes it easier for scammers to reach people and more people making financial decisions on their own is allowing investment fraudsters to have a field day. The FTC reported in their 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book that they had 1.3 million complaints related to fraud in 2016, which made up 42% of their total complaint volume. This is up from last year when it was only 40%.

Now, while the government is increasing their prosecutions and the SEC has posted signs of fraud to look out for, we must take another step in combating this crime. We should look at the risk factors that make people more likely to be victims of investor fraud and see what can be done to mitigate against these factors. Fortunately, both the AARP and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (called FINRA) have done some surveys of the victims of investor fraud, and they have found that victims were more likely to have certain traits and behaviors. Let’s look at them and see what can be done about them.


This isn’t a category that can really be mitigated against, but it can at least put you a little more on your guard. According to the 2016 survey done by the AARP, about 50% of investment fraud victims were over 70 years old. 81% of the victims were male, and 66% of the victims were married. This is in contrast to the general population of investors: about 35% of general population was over 70, 42% were male, and 58% were married. Previous surveys found that victims were likely to be making more than $50,000 a year, be financially literate, and well-educated. Investment scammers can hoodwink smart people.


In the 2007 survey done by FINRA, the survey-takers found that victims of investment fraud were more likely to have invested in riskier private investments, such as penny stocks, and less likely to have been invested in bonds. This is consistent with the attitudes that the AARP discovered in 2016. When they asked people what they thought of unregulated investments, 48% of the fraud victims thought that they were more profitable than regulated ones. Only 30% of the general population of investors agreed. The victims were also more likely to agree with the statement, “I don’t mind taking risks with my money so long as I think there is a chance that it will pay off.” The victims also said that they liked to ‘keep their ears open for investment opportunities that others hadn’t heard of yet.’ In other words, victims are still more likely to be risk-takers and receptive to sales pitches.

Another attitude they tended to hold was that accumulating money was a good thing in itself. 60% of the victims in the 2016 survey agreed with the statement “Some of the most important achievements in life include acquiring money.” Only 41% of the general population of investors agreed with the statement.


This is the area where we can do the most good. Victims of investment fraud do certain things, and they can avoid doing those things to slam the door on scammers.

If you go to the FINRA riskmeter, they ask about certain behaviors to evaluate how vulnerable you are to investment scams. (AARP has a similar one, but you have to download it, while the FINRA lets you do it on their website.) This riskmeter identifies three behaviors that make you more vulnerable to this type of fraud: not checking out the brokers licenses and disciplinary history before investing, relying solely on a friend’s recommendation to decide if a salesperson is trustworthy, and not signing up for the Do Not Call List.

The AARP findings generally agree that registering with the Do Not Call List is a great way to reduce your risk. Victims reported being contacted by salespeople more often than other investors, especially by phone.

They might have been contacted more because they were more likely to respond. 24% of the victims made investment decisions when a salesperson called them versus 6% of general investors. More victims made investment decisions to email solicitations and TV ads then general investors, too.

The victims were also more likely to be active traders, making more than 5 investment decisions in a year. 42% of the victims versus 11% of the general populace, in fact.


So, what can we do to avoid investment fraud? Remember to go to government sites to check out a broker before signing up with it. The SEC and FINRA have access to the Central Registration Depository, which has information about everyone who is licensed as an investment broker. You can go to the FINRA BrokerChecker or the SEC’s IAPD program. Here in California, we can go to the California Department of Business Oversight. These are the resources we can take advantage of.

Get on the Do Not Call List. Telemarketers and robocalls are the source of many investment scams, and reducing your availability to them is a good idea.

Be careful about responding to sales pitches. Remember that well-educated and financially savvy people have fallen for these scams. A little caution when dealing with ads will not go amiss.
Of course, sometimes even the best defenses are pierced. If you think you or someone you love may have been the victim of Investor Fraud, contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy,  a boutique law firm that focuses on investor fraud, employment law, and consumer fraud.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986