More than 7,600 Washington residents called in to the Aug. 26 AARP Tele Town Hall on how to spot and avoid becoming a victim of COVID-19-related scams – from fake vaccines or cures and at-home tests, online sales that never come through, companies selling Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or companies asking you to invest in them.
DFI Director of Securities Bill Beatty was one of four experts informing and assisting those who called in. Other speakers included:
- Erin Schneider, Regional Director with the Securities Exchange Commission
- Chuck Harwood, Western Region Director with the Federal Trade Commission
- Doug Shadel, State Director for AARP Washington
Beatty shared with listeners the most common denominator with scams detected by DFI was they were found on Craiglist, including:
- Coronavirus Penny Stock. Craigslist offer to trade your account in bio-tech stocks and split the profits. Beatty noted these “Exploit the current coronavirus crises by trading penny stocks from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry whose stocks are experiencing significant price fluctuations due to the pandemic.”
- Income during Corona Crisis. Craigslist offer of 25% returns monthly through efforts of a commodity and futures trader who will split the profits with you.
- Bio-Tek Medical. Advertised as “Silver Lining Bio Tech Opportunity” promising $8-16K monthly ROI from selling medical products that are in demand because of the crisis.
- Coronavirus Precious Metals Opportunity. Craigslist add offering investment in precious metals dealer with a 1,000% ROI +. Based in Vancouver, Washington
Beatty told listeners participating in the call was an important first step, adding it is important for residents to share information.
“It’s so important to hear from people who have been approached or have heard pitches,” Beatty said. “The cases don’t’ come to our attention until after the scam is completed and the money is gone.”
Harwood noted the FTC has received 180,000 COVID-19-related complaints nationally with at least $120 million in losses - adding those are unprecedented numbers, that no single prior event has generated this many complaints.
Other tips from the call included:
- Be wary of investment opportunities that suggest you liquidate your current portfolio to invest in something “better.”
- Be skeptical – ask questions.
- If it seems too good to be true, it’s almost always a scam.
- Investigate before you invest by contacting the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions at www.dfi.wa.gov or call 1-877-RING DFI. We can tell you:
- Whether the companies or persons offering the investment are licensed.
- Whether the investment is registered in Washington.
- Whether we have any cases related to the investment or its promoters.
Get In The Know Video: COVID-19 Scams
The North American Securities Administrators Association Get in the Know series of 3-5 minute videos walks viewers through complex investment topic in easy-to-understand language.
View this short video on avoiding COVID-19 scams.
Get more information about investment scams at:
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions
Securities and Exchange Commission
Federal Trade Commission