I first told you about the Wyze Money scam three years ago when, at the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a temporary restraining order was issued by a judge in the Federal District Court for Arizona temporarily shutting down the operation of a telemarketing scam in which three people, utilizing numerous bogus corporations, lured people into investing thousands of dollars in purported  e-commerce websites.  The scammers targeted older people and veterans from whom they stole millions of dollars with promises of huge profits and fraudulent misrepresentations that the investments were “risk free” and totally guaranteed,   The scammers charged by the FTC were Susan Rodriguez, Matthew Rodriguez and William “Matt” Whitley who did business under the names “Titan Income, ” “Wyze Money,” “Prime Cash,” and “Building Money.”  As alleged by the FTC, the entire operation was a scam and the victims received neither profits nor their investments back when they requested refunds.  Ultimately the FTC settled its civil charges against the defendants and received 7 million dollars from the defendants as part of the settlement.  This money was returned to victims of the scam, but it hardly approximated the money that the victims had lost.

Many of the victims of this scam were on the Do Not Call List, which should have been an initial indication to the victims that the “business opportunity” was a scam because calling them to offer a business opportunity was already a violation of the law.

Now Phoenix law enforcement has arrested thirteen people and charged them criminally in regard to this scam.  Because the actions of the FTC against the perpetrators of this scam were civil rather than criminal in nature, it is not a violation of double jeopardy for the defendants to now be charged criminally.

TIPS

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this.  Never invest in anything until you have had a chance to do diligent research into the particular investment.  You should be particularly wary of investment “opportunities” that come your way through unsolicited telemarketers.  Also, the Federal Business Opportunity Rule, which was ignored by  the defendants in this case, requires that before you invest in any business opportunity you are provided with a one-page disclosure that provides important facts about the business.  In addition  if, as in this case, you are told how much money you can make, you are required to be given another document with greater details.  For more information about the Business Opportunity Rule, the disclosures you should receive and claims that may not be made by people soliciting investments you can go to this link from the FTC.   https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0172-bogus-business-opportunities

You also should be wary of investment opportunities that come to you through phone calls, emails or text messages unsolicited by you.

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’s securities regulators.   You can find your state’s agency by going to the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association. 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.  Scammers can be very convincing and it may sound like there is a great opportunity for someone to make some money, but you must be careful that the person making money is not the scam artist taking yours. Additionally, investing with someone merely because you share the same heritage, nationality, religion or any other affinity is something you should avoid.

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