By Jim Campbell, Next Avenue

Editor’s note: In his new book, “Madoff Talks,” investigative reporter Jim Campbell probes the $65 billion investment fraud perpetuated by the late Bernie Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The book features Madoff’s handwritten letters and emails to Campbell, explaining how he pulled off the con, plus interviews with Madoff’s wife Ruth and son Andrew. In this excerpt, Campbell offers five rules to keep investors safe from such schemes.

“I stopped because the stress was killing me,” Bernie Madoff told me. “I was still being offered money in huge sums.”

It is likely that, in his mind, Madoff needed it to be his decision to throw in the towel — always in control, even when he wasn’t. (Madoff died in prison April 14, 2021, while serving a 150-year sentence for securities fraud, money laundering and other crimes.)

Madoff’s scheme demonstrates that the warning “Too good to be true” needs to be mothballed in favor of a Hippocratic oath for financial services professionals: “First, do no harm.” However, investors must also do their part.

Here’s how to protect yourself against a crook like Madoff:

Avoid investments that guarantee investment returns up front. At the end of his fraud, Madoff would provide benchmark guarantees of 11% compounded on his investors’ portfolio statements.


But any investment that…

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