Consumer Alert: Investment scam costs victims over a million dollars

Knowing just four words that indicate a scam could have saved one large group of investors up to a million dollars

"He convinced them that he was going to make them a ton of money," says Postal Inspector, Hope Cerda.

The suspect is Hector Gallardo, a U.S. Stock broker who targeted investors in Bolivia.

"This individual went down to Bolivia, you know, wined and dined them basically and told them that everything was guaranteed and they can make money on the stock exchange and they just had to send the money and he would take care of everything for you," explains Cerda. "He told them that they could get basically a rate of return of 18% guaranteed."

The scam worked on at least 300 victims, who sent Gallardo a little more than a million dollars.

"He was very charismatic. He knows the language. He was able to befriend these people," says Cerda. "They were enticed by the fact that he was from South America and that he had made it in the United States so they figured that he could help them make it."

The people who invested with Gallardo were not rich. As Cerda explains, they were all working class people.

"They don't have a lot of money. They were looking to better themselves. They weren't looking to make millions of dollars, they were just looking to help their families out."

But instead of helping them out, authorities say Gallardo deposited their money in his own bank account.

"He took the money and went on vacations. He had nice cars, he had a beautiful home. He just spent the money anyway he wanted to make his life better."

Inspectors hope investors will use the lessons learned in this case to keep them from becoming a future victim.

"If someone is guaranteeing you a rate of return that is much higher than you know to be factual, it most likely is a scam."

Gallardo was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. He was also ordered to pay almost $900,000 in restitution.

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