While Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are long gone, the damage they brought is still with us as recovery and restoration efforts continue. Meanwhile, scammers seeking to take advantage of the storms initially focused their efforts on phony charity solicitations are now turning their focus to a new range of scams involving investment scams in which you are solicited to invest in companies purportedly in a position to profit from the vast amounts of money that will be spent in cleanup, repair and recovery efforts.
While some of the solicitations will be for phony companies, in other instances, scammers will be luring you to invest in thinly traded companies that the scammers tell you will profit tremendously from the recovery efforts, however their misrepresentations are made merely to induce their victims to invest and drive the prices of the stock up, at which point the scammers sell their stock at a great profit. When the truth becomes known, the stock price drops and investors are left with substantial losses. This type of scam is often referred to as a pump-and-dump scam.
These hurricane recovery investment scams occurred often following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with the SEC taking legal action against a number of the scammers perpetrating these frauds.
Before investing with anyone, you should investigate the person offering to sell you the investment with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Central Registration Depository. This will tell you if the broker is licensed and if there have been disciplinary procedures against him or her. You can also check with your own state’s securities regulation office for similar information. Many investment advisers will not be required to register with the SEC, but are required to register with your individual state securities regulators. You can find your state’s agency by going to the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association.
You should also check with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for information about the particular investment adviser. It is also important to remember that you should never invest in something that you do not completely understand. This was a mistake that many of Bernie Madoff’s victims made. You also may want to check out the SEC’s investor education website at www.investor.gov.