How to Spot a Trading Strategy Scam

money and diceThe internet is loaded with ads, articles, companies and individuals trying to provide you with the next big trading strategy that will make you rich overnight. Take pause my friend, here are tips to help you spot the scam.

Strategy “Strategies”

First and foremost, trading strategies aren’t really going to help you become a good trader. What you actually need is an entire system. When you make a trading plan it needs to cover how you will enter markets, exit markets and how you will manage your money. It also needs to tell you under what market conditions you do all these things.  That is a system, it tells you everything you need to know about how you will trade.

A strategy on the other hand only tells you when to enter and exit, and may not tell you under what conditions it works best or poorly. It also may not provide guidance on position size or whether you can trade multiple assets at the same time (correlated or uncorrelated?)—issues which are very important to address. In other words, a strategy may have missing pieces of information you need to be successful.

Trading “Systems”

We need a complete trading system…but marketers are smart, so they can  easily just call the product they are selling a “system” to make it sound more complete. But is it? Here are several things to watch for which could tip you off the product is probably a waste of money:

 Boxed System

I don’t mean that it comes it in a box, that doesn’t matter. What I mean by a boxed system is that you don’t get to know how the strategy works. For example, the product may just be a series of indicators or a service that tells you when to trade, but not why.

This isn’t going to make you a better trader, because you don’t know what is happening behind the scenes. If a product or signal service stops operating you are left with nothing. Even if you made money with the product/service you have to start from scratch all over again.

Make sure if you buy something it explains how it works, so that eventually you don’t have to rely on the product/service.

Extremely High Win Rates

Is it possible to have a 90% win rate? Absolutely, yet it is also possible to lose money with a 90% win rate. Stats are easily manipulated to tell partial truths or fabricate lies. Other popular tactics are saying things like “Made $500 in one day!” So what? That doesn’t actually tell you anything. If that was on a $1,000,000 account then making $500 isn’t so grand. And if they lost $3000 they day before, then making only $500 today and bragging about it is rather paltry.

Read between the lines. What isn’t being said? To understand performance you need several bits of information: Account size (capital), percentage return, amount at risk on each trade, amount of profit per trade, win/loss ratio, biggest winner, biggest loser, average winner, average loser, number of trades and period over which the strategy was tested/profitable .

There are also some other metrics that could help you out, but if you ask the company for these bits of information, and they can’t or won’t give them to you, be suspicious. You can usually get a sense of what vulnerabilities and tendencies a system has by looking at the above stats. One of the main things is that the strategy should be tested over a long period of time, and in all market conditions–up trends, down trends, ranges, volatile and sedate conditions. It doesn’t necessarily have to profitable in each of these environments, but it should have at least been traded through them all so you know that the system is profitable overall.

Often marketers will only publish results for a period where strategy did very well. But this doesn’t give you a real idea of how the strategy or system works over the long-term.

  • Related to stats there is something else you need to consider. If a system is profitable, that result is based on all the trades. If you buy the product or the service, are you going to trade them all? On issue many traders face when subscribing to a signal service is that they don’t trade all the signals. If you don’t trade all the signals then your personal results could be dramatically different than the typical results of the service.

 Only One Direction

Avoid a system that only trades in one direction, for example only buys assets but won’t short sell them. Markets rise and fall, you want to participate in both trends.

No Trial Period

You should be able to test a product and be able to cancel without a fuss if the service isn’t for you. Usually a quick trading forum search on Google will reveal what others have shares about a product or service. No trial, no deal. Don’t trust anyone, test things out for yourself. If they won’t let you, then be wary.

Final Word

A product or service shouldn’t make you reliant on it. It should show you behind the scenes so that eventually you can trade on your own. Good products will always have customers since there are people who don’t want to do the work themselves, and there are always new traders. There is no reason to make every customer totally dependent.  Be wary of stats that are thrown out. Ask yourself what the stats aren’t telling you.  Also, if the stats they provide are legitimate, then you’ll need to trade all the signals to take advantage and get results typical of the service. Of course remember though, past performance is not indicative of futures results. That is way it pays to do some homework, and make sure the strategy/system/service/product is based on a long history, and has proven itself profitable over all types of market conditions. Test out a product/system/service before buying it. If they won’t let you try, be suspicious.

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