OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) announced on May 11th that it is participating in an international enforcement task force organized by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) to investigate fraudsters looking to capitalize during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Washington’s DFI is a member of NASAA, the membership organization of state and provincial securities regulators in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The task force consists of state and provincial securities regulators and was formed to identify and stop potential threats to investors stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Task force members are using online investigative techniques to identify websites and social media posts that may be offering or promoting fraudulent offerings, investment frauds, and unregistered regulated activities.
To assist in protecting investors from COVID-19 investment scams, DFI also encourages public reporting of suspected fraudulent COVID-19 investment offers. Investors who see or suspect they fell victim to COVID-19 related investment scams can contact the agency toll-free at 877-RING-DFI (746-4334), locally at 360-902-8730 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Reporting suspicious COVID-19 related investment offers is important to help DFI investigate and prosecute illegal activities and protect our citizens from falling victim to a financial fraud in these unprecedented times,” DFI Director of Securities Bill Beatty said.
A critical component of fighting fraud is investor awareness. To help investors identify common telltale signs of possible investment fraud, DFI suggests three questions to ask before making a new investment:
Is the investment being offered with a guaranteed high return with little or no risk? All investments carry risk that you may potentially lose some or all of your money. Anyone who says their investment offer has no risk is lying. No one can guarantee an investment return.
Is there a sense of urgency or limited availability of detailed information surrounding the investment? If someone offers you a “can’t miss” investment opportunity and pressures you to invest right now, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Is the person offering the investment, and the investment itself, properly licensed or registered? For the same reasons you wouldn’t go to an unlicensed doctor or dentist, you should avoid unregistered investment salespeople and their products.
“Make sure you have all the facts before you hand your money over to someone else to invest,” Beatty added.
DFI offers investor education information at https://dfi.wa.gov/financial-education/information/investing and more on how to identify scams and frauds at https://dfi.wa.gov/financial-education/information/financial-scams-and-fraud.
About the Division of Securities: The Division of Securities regulates securities investments, franchises, business opportunities, and off-exchange commodities sold in Washington and the firms and individuals that sell these products or provide investment advice. The Division handles complaints, conducts investigations, and takes appropriate enforcement actions to protect investors and combat fraud. www.dfi.wa.gov/sd
About DFI: The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions regulates a variety of financial service providers such as banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, consumer loan companies, payday lenders and securities brokers and dealers. The department also works to improve financial education throughout Washington through its outreach programs and online clearinghouse www.dfi.wa.gov/financial-education. In addition to posting information about licensees and administrative actions, DFI uses the Web and social media to provide financial education information: www.twitter.com/FinEd4All * www.twitter.com/DFIConsumers * www.homeownership.wa.gov.
– Washington State Department of Financial Institutions