The following information is relevant to anyone, especially those who may receive lump sum payouts from insurance companies and others in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Investment scams can take many forms, including promoters touting companies purportedly involved in cleanup efforts, trading programs that falsely guarantee high returns, and classic Ponzi schemes where new investors' money is used to pay money promised to earlier investors.
Some scams are circulated through spam email, promising high returns for small, thinly-traded companies that supposedly will reap huge profits from recovery and cleanup efforts. For example, the SEC brought a number of enforcement actions against individuals and companies who made false and misleading statements about alleged business opportunities in light of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Some of those cases involved pump-and-dump scams where fraudsters use fake "news" to pump up the stock price of small companies so they can sell shares they own at artificially high prices.
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Be Skeptical and Ask Questions
One of the best ways to avoid investment fraud is to ask questions. Be skeptical if you are approached by somebody touting an investment opportunity. Ask that person whether he or she is licensed and whether the investment they are promoting is registered with the SEC or with a state.
Check out their answers with an unbiased source, such as the SEC or your state securities regulator.
Know that promises of fast and high profits, with little or no risk, are classic signs of fraud.