Protecting Native Money: How to Avoid Financial Fraud

Financial fraud is far too common in Native American communities, and is a growing problem with the recent increase in tribal lawsuit settlements with the federal government. First Nations Development Institute has partnered with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to produce a pamphlet that can help people protect themselves from common financial fraud techniques.

Over the past five years more than $1 billion in tribal trust settlements have been reached, including the Keepseagle and Cobell class-action legal settlements. Many of these settlements have resulted in payments to individual tribal members, which makes them targets for fraudsters who follow a simple strategy: They go where the money is. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation is collaborating with First Nations to help reach the recipients of these trust fund settlements, as well as other tribal members who may be targeted for their wealth.

The pamphlet, titled “Fighting Fraud 101: Smart Tips for Investors,” is designed to appeal to individuals, members of tribal investment committees, and retirees. It lists some common fraud tactics, such as the “Social Consensus” tactic that lead you to believe that your savvy friends and neighbors may have already invested in a product. With the “Source Credibility” tactic, a fraudster may falsely suggest they have worked with other tribal investment committees or helped people manage lump sum payouts from tribal lawsuits to try to gain trust. The pamphlet also teaches several techniques to avoid being taken advantage of and how to report suspicious behavior.

“We are honored to be able to collaborate with several national partners, including the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, to provide financial education for tribal members,” said First Nations President Michael Roberts.

First Nations representatives Sarah Dewees and Shawn Spruce spoke at an October 29, 2014, Federal Trade Commission event titled “Fraud Affects All Communities.” The purpose of this meeting was to highlight the range of consumer, financial and investor fraud techniques that affect diverse communities.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that financial fraud is a big problem on many Indian reservations,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs. “I am happy we have been able to continue our work with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Office of the Special Trustee to help community members protect themselves against financial fraud.”

A copy of the pamphlet can be viewed in First Nations’ online Knowledge Center at http://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/predatory-lending/research.  To order printed copies, you can email info@firstnations.org.

By Sarah Dewees, First Nations Senior Director of Research, Policy and Asset-Building Programs

First Nations Keynotes at Seminole Conference

The Native Learning Center affiliated with the Seminole Tribe of Florida invited First Nations Development Institute to present at its Fifth Annual Summer Conference – Strengthening Tribal Communities Into the Future – in Hollywood, Florida, on June 5, 2013.

First Nations Senior Program Officer Montoya Whiteman (Cheyenne-Arapaho) spoke during a general session to approximately 150 conference attendees. She discussed First Nations’ history and purpose, the organization’s current My Green financial education campaign, and the Building Native Communities Financial Series, specifically A Journey to Financial Empowerment.

Montoya Whiteman

Montoya noted that the opportunity to share First Nation’s work in this type of environment reinforces the importance of collaboration, and provides insight into demonstrated strategies, tools and research activities.  “It also highlights the valuable resources that are free to Native communities and the public, and which are available through our First Nations website,” she added.

To learn more about research models and publications, visit http://www.firstnations.org and click on the “Knowledge Center” tab, or simply click here.

At First Nations, Montoya currently supports the organization’s Strengthening Native American Nonprofits Program through technical assistance, training, site visits, institutes, and webinars for improving nonprofit capacity and organizational effectiveness. She implements several U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grants, as well the Housing and Urban Development One CPD Technical Assistance grant. Most recently, she has taken on responsibility for overseeing a new project that will expand First Nations’ work to urban Indians and organizations, beyond its normal focus on rural and reservation-based Native communities.