Lindeen Busts Great Falls Company and National Affiliate in Bait-and-Switch, Securities Fraud Scam
Warns Montanans to Watch Out for High-Yield Certificates of Deposit that Aren’t Sold By Banks
Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, Monica Lindeen, today ordered a Great Falls company and its national affiliate to stop advertising and offering high-yield CDs in Montana that do not exist.
Lindeen issued a Cease and Desist Order and Notice of Proposed Agency Action ordering Robert Koostra, of First Fidelity Financial Group of Central Montana and First Fidelity Financial Group to stop making offers to sell bank-issued certificates of deposit (CDs) touting a higher than actual annual percentage rate. First Fidelity Group of Central Montana and Koostra maintain offices in Great Falls. First Fidelity Financial Group is the national affiliate of the company located in Florida and Keller is the firm’s principal.
“Montanans have the right to know what they’re buying,” said Lindeen. “We will not allow people who don’t play by the rules to investors to lure Montanans into buying inappropriate investment products.”
Lindeen said First Fidelity Financial Group of Central Montana placed ads in the Great Falls Tribune touting the availability 3-month FDIC insured CDs carrying an annual percentage rate of 4.21%. Lindeen’s office investigated the claims and determined there are no FDIC insured banks in this country paying 4.21% for a 3-month CD.
In order to make an annual percentage yield of 4.21%, the state alleges Koostra was writing his own personal checks to investors for the difference between the advertised rate and the actual rate banks are currently paying. Lindeen alleges First Fidelity Financial Group of Central Montana and Koostra are offering unregistered securities and committing securities fraud by advertising a certificate of deposit that does not exist. First Fidelity Financial Group’s national website touts similar higher than actual CDs and offer trainings to insurance agents throughout the country on how to lure seniors into purchasing annuities through bogus CD advertising campaigns.
Sales of high yield investments, such as CDs, are often used as a method of drawing senior citizens into the offices of insurance agents in order to sell other products, most notably equity index and variable annuities. Now that so many investors are flocking to the safety of bank certificates of deposit, more marketing promotions are capitalizing on this desire.
“If you’re not extra careful, you could wind up with an investment you don’t want – or find yourself a victim of outright fraud,” says Lindeen. “Don’t assume that all promotions for CDs are from FDIC-insured institutions, or that all investments advertised by FDIC-insured banks are insured products.
Before opening a CD, always know the seller. FDIC-insured banks are searchable at “bank find” at FDIC.gov. If the advertiser is not a bank, check the entity out with your state’s securities regulator (NASAA.org) or insurance regulator (NAIC.org). Find out whether any complaints have been filed against the seller.