RICHMOND — The State Corporation Commission urges Virginians to beware of opportunistic investment scams in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
“Disasters bring out the best in some people, but they bring out the worst in others,” said Ron Thomas, director of the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising. “Fraudsters often follow the headlines to peddle their schemes. Be leery of unsolicited investment opportunities that seek to capitalize on Hurricane Harvey’s devastation,” Thomas said.
Red flags for hurricane-related scams include unsolicited email, social media messages, crowdfunding pitches or telephone calls promoting investment pools or bonds to help storm victims, water-removal or purification technologies, electricity-generating devices and distressed real estate remediation programs.
Scam artists also may target storm victims who anticipate receiving large lump-sum insurance settlements. “Be wary of smooth-talking promoters promising quick and high returns on your investments,” Thomas said.
Thomas offers the following tips to help investors avoid disaster-related scams:
- Delete unsolicited emails or social media messages and hang up on aggressive cold callers promoting hurricane-related investments, especially those from small companies touting unproven or new technologies or products.
- Don’t be pressured to make rushed decisions about investments you don’t understand. Before making a decision to invest, request written information that fully explains the investment.
- Don’t fall for unrealistic claims or offers touting guaranteed returns with little or no risk. Every investment involves some degree of risk.
- Do your homework. Contact the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising to check that both the seller and investment are registered. If they are not, don’t invest. Contact information is available on the division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/srf/srf_contact.aspx.
- If you suspect you are the victim of fraud, report it to your state securities regulator immediately.
For more information, call the SCC’s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising in Richmond at (804) 371-9051 or toll-free (in Virginia) at 1-800-552-7945. You may also visit the division’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/srf/ or visit the North American Securities Administrators Association’s website at http://www.nasaa.org/.