Date Posted: 
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Director Scott Jarvis joins the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) in reminding investors not to allow recent negative economic news and stock market volatility to lead them into high-risk speculative investments. Perpetrators of many fraudulent schemes use gloomy economic headlines to lure unsuspecting investors.

“Investment scam perpetrators stay current on economic news in order to seem more legitimate and believable to their victims,” Jarvis said. “These predators will use investor fears to promote illegitimate schemes with promises of high return with little to no risk that, in reality, often leave investors holding nothing but empty wallets and drained bank books.”

Phony investment scheme perpetrators promising high returns to make up for losses in retirement accounts often target investors nearing retirement.

“We’re concerned that in trying to build a more comfortable cushion for retirement, entire retirement savings built over a lifetime of working could be cleaned out,” Jarvis said. “Hasty decision making could potentially stamp out any chance of retirement for some consumers, or financially ruin a current retiree.”

DFI and NASAA encourage investors to:

  • Guard against high-pressure sales pitches for unregistered securities and non-traditional investments including: foreign currency, oil and gas investments, exotic financial products, or offers to send their money offshore to so-called “safe havens.”
  • Hang up on aggressive cold callers and delete unsolicited e-mail messages promoting investment opportunities with little or no risk.
  • Request written information about any investment; carefully review it or ask your financial adviser to evaluate it BEFORE INVESTING.
  • Use common sense. Get-rich-quick promises are usually signs of investment fraud. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • If you suspect you are the victim of a scam, report it to DFI's Securities Division. In addition to documenting your own case, your call could protect others from becoming victims.
  • Contact DFI’s Securities Division or other state securities regulators to verify that both the seller and the investment are licensed and registered. If they aren’t, don’t invest.
  • Be aware that legitimate financial professionals, if serving their client’s interests first, generally do not recommend changes to investment portfolios based on short term economic news and market volatility.

Investors, especially those nearing or in retirement, should be skeptical of any recommendation to liquidate a well structured, diversified investment portfolio to fund the purchase of an alternative investment product that may expose them to high commissions, high fees, excessive complexity, and undue risk.