The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission have launched a consumer education initiative on investment fraud.
"The more consumers and businesses we can alert to the tell-tale signs of fraudulent investments, the more we can reduce the power of unscrupulous operators who prey on gullible investors.
The age-old message -- to Investigate BEFORE You Invest -- remains as relevant as ever, no matter who's peddling the get-rich-quick message or how the fraudulent investment is being touted," said Michael Clayton, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Southeast Texas.
Over the years, BBB offices across North America have assisted millions of consumers and businesses looking for information on investment-related businesses, and recent statistics indicate that investment fraud may be on the increase.
While many investment offers are legitimate, your BBB advises consumers to take the time to carefully examine each one before committing to anything.
To help investors avoid investment-related frauds and scams, the BBB offers the following advice:
* Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, letters, e-mails, or personal visits from strangers offering quick-profit schemes that require an immediate investment.
* Don't fall for promises that you can "double your money" or expect spectacularly high returns on your investment within a short period of time.
* Turn down investment opportunities that claim time is of the essence; that "tomorrow will be too late."
* Always demand written information about the organization behind the investment plan and its track record. Bear in mind, though, that slick brochures and upscale marketing materials can be utterly false.
* Be suspicious of claims of "inside information", hot tips, and rumors that supposedly will give you a big advantage over other, less knowledgeable investors.
* Ask for a prospectus, financial statement, or similar document before you consider investing. Read the small print carefully and make sure you understand the terms
thoroughly before signing any kind of contract. If you don't understand the investment, don't buy it!
* Contact the state securities agency to find out if the promoter and investment are properly registered in Texas.
* Contact your BBB in Southeast Texas to determine whether there have been any previous questions or complaints about the company. Request a performance/reliability report on the firm. Whenever possible, deal with established local businesses whose reputations are known and respected in the community.
As continuing efforts to educate consumers on investment issues, the BBB offers "Tips On..." booklets for consumers on a variety of investment-related topics, including Financial Planners; Multi-Level Marketing; and Work-at-Home Schemes.
To receive a booklet, send a self-addressed business size envelope to BBB, P.O. Box 2988, Beaumont TX 77704.
Information is available from your BBB in Southeast Texas 24 hours a day by calling (409) 835-5348 or (800) 685-7650. Reliability reports and other information are also available at www.bbbsetexas.org.