Buyer beware - even of friends and family.
Two attorneys from the State Department of Financial Institutions came to Spokane Thursday to warn senior citizens about the poor investments, scams and fraudulent traps set to take their money.
“There are some crazy schemes out there and people are just too happy to give away their money,” attorney Steven Raney said. “If it sounds too good, it probably is.”
He told the handful of people who came for the fraud presentation at the Corbin Community Center about a recent scam where investors were told they could turn dirt into gold. A business sold them mine tailings from Montana that it claimed it would truck to Washington and sift for traces of gold, silver and other precious minerals.
“They raised almost $2 million from people here in Washington State and up in British Columbia,” Raney said. “It sounds crazy and people can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny to the victims.”
More than 50 percent of the victims Raney and his colleague Rex Staples encounter when they investigate securities fraud are senior citizens.
“Older people and retired people are major targets,” Raney said.
And the victims aren’t limited to the inexperienced. Some are sophisticated investors who end up trusting the wrong broker or caught up in a scheme.
“We can’t bring legal action to get your money back. You’ll have to hire your own attorney,” Raney said. “But we can investigate your complaints.”
They encouraged their audience to check the background of their brokers through the State securities office before handing over money for investment.
The dangers of fraud reach beyond the basic telephone and mail scams and the occasional bad broker, the attorneys said. Always be cautious, even if the investment advice comes from close to home.
One Eastern Washington woman was left penniless when she surrendered her savings to a member of her church, Staples said.
“She trusted him as a church member and he left her penniless,” Staples said. “Crooks don’t care who they victimize.”
To report a complaint or to check the records of a broker or a brokerage firm, call the Department of Financial Institutions Securities Division at 800-327-8303.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Hannelore Sudermann Staff writer
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