Consumers warned on popular investment scams

Posted Sept. 01, 2011, at 12:26 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 01, 2011, at 5:53 p.m.

Consumers warned on popular investment scams|

The Maine’s Office of Securities on Thursday warned the public about the most prevalent investor scams that are out in the marketplace currently.

“As investors seek to rebuild savings and restore retirement security, they need to resist the lure of sales pitches and become familiar with the most common fraudulent schemes,” said Judith Shaw, administrator of the office, in a release. “Getting caught by an investment trap can make it much more difficult to get back on solid financial ground.”

To give an idea of how serious a problem this is in Maine, from January 2006 to the present, the Maine Office of Security has successfully obtained civil orders and criminal judgements forcing the return of $9.93 million in restitution to victims of investment scams.

Nationally, in the 2008-2009 period, state regulators brought more than 2,300 securities enforcement actions, including fraud actions, resulting in orders to return more than $4.7 billion to investors.

The Maine office joined with the North American Securities Administrators Association in a public awareness campaign to highlight the scams.

According to the two groups, the top investor traps in 2011 include:

  • Distressed real estate schemes: “While many legitimate investment offerings are tied to real estate, investment pools targeting distressed real estate have become increasingly popular with con artists.”

 

  • Energy investments: “Swindlers continue to trick investors by touting the promise of untapped oil and gas reserves and other sources of energy production.” Maine’s Office of Securities provided information earlier this year in the case of a California man who took money from investors in Maine and other states promising returns on a wind power scheme that proved to be bogus.

 

  • Gold and precious metals: “Recent schemes are variations on old themes: a promoter seeking capital to reopen a long dormant mine in exchange for a full refund plus interest and a stake in the mine. In another case, operators claimed to have special coins or nuggets that they can store or trade for investors in special markets for high profits and returns.”

 

  • Promissory notes: “Investors seeking safety in uncertain economic conditions or those enticed by the promise of big returns through a private, informal loan arrangement may suffer deep losses investing in unregistered or fraudulent promissory notes.”

 

  • Affinity fraud: “Marketing a fraudulent investment scheme to members of an identifiable group continues to be a highly successful and lucrative practice for Ponzi scheme operators and other fraudsters.”

“When it comes to investing, the first rule of thumb is to verify everything and everyone before parting with any money,” Shaw said in the release.  “Information is an investor’s best defense against investment fraud, and Maine’s Office of Securities should be contacted whenever questions or concerns arise.”

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