You have seen via Google Ads on my or other financial sites advertising 8% CD rates from Millennium Bank. Wow, sounds great! But given the internet age, when you see “bank”, it could be from any corner of the world. The terms “certificate of deposit” or “savings account” may imply security here, but don’t necessarily mean anything internationally. The FDIC website gives some good guidance on Safe Internet Banking:
Read key information about the bank posted on its Web site.
Although it tries to distract you by saying it is owned by some Swiss trust company, if you read further it you find that Millennium Bank is located in the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). So, it’s not even located in the United States. From Wikipedia, St. Vincent has a population of just 119,000, it’s main industry is banana production, and has an unemployment rate of about 22%. Also of interest:
There is [...] a small offshore financial sector whose particularly restrictive secrecy laws have caused some international concern.
Does this sound like a place that you would want to keep your money? Maybe if you were trying to hide it! If something goes wrong, do you want to navigate a foreign system to get your money back?
Verify the bank’s insurance status.
This bank isn’t even located in the United States, so there’s no point in even running a bank search to see if it is FDIC insured. It doesn’t even appear to insure its deposits by any private or public agency. If a bank claims to be a subsidiary of a bank that is FDIC-insured, call the parent bank. If they’ve never heard of it, run away.
Gut check: Is it too good to be true?
Finally, risk and return are closely linked in legitimate bank products. If the best any other bank can do is barely 6%, there’s virtually no way a bank offering 8% return with the same level of risk. They have to be doing something riskier, whether it is making some currency bets or investing in lower-quality debt. Given the lack of disclosure of what these risks are, you might as well buy some junk bonds, which are at least rated by reputable independent companies.
Bottom line, I hope you’ll agree there’s absolutely no reason to put your money anywhere near this institution.
By Jonathan Ping | Banking | 6/5/07, 12:06am