Step 2. Gather evidence - The MOMENT you are suspicious (or sooner, be paranoid)

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Brigadier General
Step 2. Gather evidence
- The MOMENT you are suspicious (or sooner, be paranoid)

I'm writing this primarily about brokers, but I'm sure you can adapt. If, for example, you bought an EA that didn't do well and the company isn't honoring its "No questions asked" guarantee, you don't need to worry about fake spikes or other stupid broker trick items. What you do need is the seller's TOS and details about how you sent your money to them.

If there is an issue regarding withdrawals, close all open positions before contacting the company. It would be extremely sad if somehow all your trades went into such big losses that your account was left negative. In a case like that, the broker wouldn't ever send that withdrawal you've been waiting for.

If you have more than enough money in your account to cover a withdrawal, get a screenshot showing your account's equity and balance. If you did close all of your positions these should be equal (unless you've got some sort of bonus that's not withdrawable).

Get screenshots of anything in your account area on the broker's website.

Get screenshots of the company's Terms of Service (you should do this BEFORE opening an account). Don't count on a company not editing its TOS just to steal your money. I've seen it happen.

Save copies of all emails to or from from the company. If you live chat them, save screenshots and (if it's an option) have them mail you the chat transcript. Try to avoid phone calls. If you do later have to talk to them on the phone, check and see if you are legally allowed to record conversations without telling them. If it's legal, do it.

Download your trading statements.

Gather up all information about how you've sent money to the company.

Take screenshots of all relevant screens in your account. (If a giant spike took you out, you need a screenshot.)

Other than evidence to prove your claim, the most important information is details of how you transferred funds to the broker (or paid for the product or whatever). If they haven't accepted any money from you, it's going to be a little hard to convince a regulator or police agency that you are a victim. Tracing the money is the number one way to track down unregulated, unregistered offshore scams, so the payment instructions are often critical to being able to track down the scammers. If you did get a withdrawal before things turned bad, the info of where and how the money was sent can also be a vital clue.

Even if you're not a victim, feel free to report suspicious things to regulators. Ponzi schemes are easy to spot without putting money in and most regulators also publish warnings about companies falsely claiming to be regulated.

NOTE: Be EXTRA paranoid. Don't just save data to your hard drive. Email copies to yourself (from one web-based email account of yours to another web-based email account of yours). It would be very sad to have enough evidence to get a criminal arrested and lose it to a hard drive failure.
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