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Investors: Beware of cyber fraud

It’s unfortunate, but true: During times of turmoil, whether it be a geopolitical situation or the economic stresses of inflation and rising interest rates, scam artists in cyberspace will try to take advantage of unsuspecting investors. What can you do to protect yourself?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited investment offers. Through tweets, direct messages, emails or some other form of social media communication, you might get unsolicited offers to invest from senders you don’t know. Unsolicited sales pitches may be part of fraudulent investment schemes, so you’ll want to be highly suspicious of these offers, especially if they use words or phrases such as “guaranteed” or “can’t miss.
  • Do some research. Given the market volatility of recent weeks, cyberspace fraudsters may use social media to encourage unwary investors to go outside the normal investment world and put their money in “specialized” vehicles. But these instruments may have significant risk and lie outside the supervision of those agencies whose mission it is to help protect investors, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which oversees stocks and other securities, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which regulates more complex investment vehicles, such as futures and options. If you’re suspicious of an investment offer, you could take several steps, including checking with your state’s securities regulator, to determine if the person making the offer is even registered to sell investments and if the investment itself has been registered.
  • Be skeptical about online newsletters. You can find legitimate online newsletters devoted to investment topics. However, some companies pay newsletters to promote their stocks, so the information isn’t objective. This activity isn’t illegal as long as the newsletters disclose who is paying them, but some fraudsters lie about their payments and also fabricate the success they’ve had in recommending stocks. Furthermore, these questionable newsletters may be advertised on valid websites or on the online financial pages of authentic news organizations.
  • Watch out for “affinity fraud.” Your membership in a particular demographic, civic or professional group is no secret to potential fraudsters. So, be wary of any investment pitch that’s made through an online group of which you are a member, or that appears in a chat room or online message board dealing with a specific topic of interest to you. Even if the person making the offer appears trustworthy, you still need to be extremely cautious, as this individual could have been fooled into thinking the investment opportunity was legitimate.

In addition to being on guard against investment advice you might see on social media, you can also take some practical steps. For example, keep your personal information – birthday, Social Security number, phone number, address, etc. – off social networks. Also, it’s a good idea to periodically change the passwords on all your financial accounts. And of course, never communicate financial information or account numbers to an unfamiliar source. If you’re already working with a financial services firm, that firm should already have in place the proper security protocols for communicating information to them. 

Sadly, investment scams will probably always be with us. But, taking preventive measures, can help reduce your chances of being victimized. 

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Edward Jones. Member SIPC.

Sean Payne, CFP® can be reached at (562) 596-3722.