Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What to know and how to recognize the threat

Investment scams have been on the rise around the globe, and unfortunately, have been rising in sophistication. Fraud was introduced to the Internet most notably by the Nigeria 411 scams, i.e. advance fee fraud. Times have changed.

Criminals are using today's worldwide access to the Internet to their advantage. Webhosting accounts for a new website, bank and credit accounts can now be easily opened via the Internet, from anywhere in the world. Having some false identification gives the scammer the upper hand here, as he has essentially created an alias with little, if any, traceable information.

Beware of the False Website

Many investment scams are taking the form of the classic advance fee fraud, but with a higher level of sophistication and (seemingly) credibility. Websites are often created with templates or a design is stolen from another reputable and legal investment company. Once the site is complete, the criminal has created what appears to be a legitimate website and company. The headquarters for these fictitious firms are often located in the United States, so the website claims. These sites are mearly a tool for fraud.

How to distinguish a real investment website from a fraudulent one? Search Google and Yahoo for the company to determine if there are other sites referencing the firm. Check the site itself to see if the firm has contact information. A website without an address or phone number is a red flag for potential fraud or scam. Search phone directories for the firm's telephone number. Lastly, check with the SEC's website for signs on how to recognize these investment scams, and to verify registration of the firm.

The Warning Signs

Although the level of sophistication in these scams continues to rise, an educated consumer can know the difference. Scammers today always contact their victims with an offer - the potential victim has been selected. The firm representative may speak perfect English, and even understand investments and asset management. He may even request you submit an IRS form and other documents. Bottom line, this person will request personal data and/or payment promptly and without ever meeting you. Be skeptical and ask for the firms' references and SEC filing.

How to Be Sure

If you've searched the Internet for references, checked local phone listings, maybe even contacted the SEC for verification, and spoke with company representatives and claimed references - and you're still not sure? Contact a professional international private investigator like Wymoo International or Philippine PI for help. Get the facts on who you're dealing with - then decide.

Best of luck,

A. Hathaway
© 2006-2009 A. Hathaway
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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, A. Hathaway, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as noted.